Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach are two vibrant waterfront communities nestled between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of the Rockaway peninsula. While this waterfront setting makes these neighborhoods unique places to live and attracts millions of beachgoers every year, it is also what makes them vulnerable to flooding from coastal storms today and to a greater degree in the future. As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning has been working with the communities of Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach to identify changes to zoning and land use and other actions that support the continued vitality of these neighborhoods, reduce the risk associated with coastal flooding, and ensure the long-term resiliency of the built environment. Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach were selected for the study not only because they were severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy, but also because of the significant expansion of the floodplain and the concentration building types that present unique resiliency challenges.
View the summary report on Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach.
In order to better understand the various resiliency challenges in Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach, the Department of City Planning conducted extensive field work and analysis of the study area and relied on input from area stakeholders including residents, community-based organizations, and elected officials. A Community Advisory Committee of area stakeholders convened with local elected officials to discuss the issues and strategies relating to post-Sandy recovery, the release of new flood maps, and stricter building code requirements for building or retrofitting in the floodplain. In addition, two meetings were held with the Beach 116th Street Partnership, a local merchants association that came together with the help of the New York City Department of Small Business Services in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to discuss issues and strategies relating to the neighborhoods’ commercial corridors and economic development.
Area stakeholders and local elected officials expressed interest in bolstering the resiliency and vibrancy of the community by providing flexibility for flood-resistant building, promoting economic development through recreation and tourism, improving transportation to and from the Rockaway peninsula, advocating for flood insurance reform, and expediting coastal protection projects such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ (USACE) East Rockaway Inlet to Rockaway Inlet and Jamaica Bay Reformulation Study.
Through this input and a detailed flood risk and land use analysis, a planning framework was developed that identified recommendations to help address resiliency issues in the study area.
Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach are residential neighborhoods with over 30,000 residents generally bounded by Jamaica Bay to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Beach 77th Street to the east and Beach 129th Street to the west. During Hurricane Sandy, there was extensive flooding that caused significant damage to basements and ground floor levels throughout these neighborhoods.Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach are particularly vulnerable to flooding from a 1% annual chance flood event and, due to being situated at the narrowest part of the Rockaway Peninsula, face flood risks from both the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay. As illustrated by FEMA’s Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (PFIRMs), the 1% annual chance floodplain encompasses the vast majority of the study area and includes over 3,000 buildings. Only approximately a third of the buildings now in the study area were in the 1% annual chance floodplain in the 2007 FIRMs. Today, approximately ninety-five percent of all buildings are within the 1% annual chance floodplain. The remainder of the study area falls within the 0.2% annual chance floodplain. This expansion, in addition to changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will result in higher insurance premiums for homeowners with federally regulated mortgages, many of whom may not have had flood insurance in the past. Flood-proofing homes to meet federal requirements would allow property owners to reduce insurance premiums; however these strategies present physical and regulatory challenges and require significant investment. The 2013 Citywide Flood Resiliency Zoning Text Amendment was adopted on a temporary basis to remove many of the zoning barriers to making resiliency investments; however, these changes do not fully address some of the challenges encountered since Sandy, and needs to be made permanent.
Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach are neighborhoods with a varied, though aging building stock, active commercial areas, and a dramatic beachfront setting that draws new residents and visitors from across the region. This study seeks to build on the area’s strengths and propose local strategies, including recommendations to update zoning, to help mitigate the area’s vulnerability to coastal flooding. The framework map below identifies five priority areas for the study area. These five priority areas are highlighted because of the opportunities they provide to strengthen the area’s long-term resiliency.
Certain multi-family buildings do not have sufficient flexibility under zoning to make retrofits that meet new flood-resistant construction standards. DCP will explore updates to zoning to allow for the relocation of residential floor area above flood elevations as part of the process to update and refine existing special rules for the floodplain. These zoning changes can be combined with outreach efforts to educate residents on the benefits of investing in resiliency and identifying opportunities to help homeowners offset the cost of retrofitting to enable a more resilient housing stock.
DCP will explore updates to zoning to promote the retrofitting of existing commercial buildings as part of a citywide update. The City is also supporting the organization and preparedness of existing businesses to strengthen commercial corridors.
The shorelines of Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach are lined with City-owned assets including bulkheads and parkland. The City is advancing a series of projects that activate the waterfront with a range of recreational activities, support habitat diversity, and provide coastal protection.
The City is implementing strategies to increase transportation options and improve connectivity in the Rockaways and is working with the MTA to ensure the resiliency of critical transit infrastructure.
Under current sea level rise projections, a portion of the study area is expected to be vulnerable to daily tidal flooding by the 2050s. DCP will work with other agencies to identify opportunities to invest in shoreline infrastructure to help mitigate flooding and will continue to monitor the area as sea levels rise.
The Resilient Neighborhoods Initiative is part of a broad range of efforts by the City to recover from Hurricane Sandy, promote rebuilding and increase the city’s resilience to climate-related events, including coastal flooding and storm surge. Recommendations from this program have been developed in close consultation with area stakeholders and will coordinate with other initiatives, including:
For more information contact: ResilientQueens_DL@planning.nyc.gov