A celebration for some, a protest for others
by Patrick Kearns
May 26, 2015 | 2676 views | 0 0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is joined by city and elected officials in officially opening Rockaway's beaches for the summer.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is joined by city and elected officials in officially opening Rockaway's beaches for the summer.
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Some took the opening as a chance to get their message out to the mayor.
Some took the opening as a chance to get their message out to the mayor.
slideshow
Part celebration, part opening, Mayor Bill de Blasio was joined by a multitude of elected officials to officially open Rockaway Beach to residents for the summer. This past weekend, beachgoers got their first look at a revamped continuous section of boardwalk for the first time since the destructive waves of Hurricane Sandy.

The project's success is thanks a $480 million grant from FEMA. De Blasio also promised that any remaining funds would stay in Rockaway.

He explained that it’s part of a continued resilience effort post-Sandy, and that the boardwalk will also help protect the homes on the peninsula.

“We learned a lot of very tough lessons after Sandy,” de Blasio said as he stood on the newly constructed boardwalk.

The rest of the boardwalk is expected to be finished in the next year with the entire post-Sandy revitalization project expected to take a total of two more years.

“The boardwalk is a representation of the spirit, the culture and what is special about this place,” de Blasio said. “I never met a person in the Rockaways who said ‘I’m giving up.’”

Borough President Melinda Katz joined the mayor in praising the spirit of Rockaway residents.

“I’ve got to tell you,” she said. “You’re a tough bunch. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

She also playfully teased de Blasio, a Brooklyn native, saying that Rockaway was home to the best beach in the city of New York.

A number of elected officials joined the celebration, as it also marked the official opening of the beaches for the summer. With lifeguards on duty but the water not yet at its warmest, some beachgoers still took the opportunity to dive in and cool-off over the holiday weekend.

For some, the afternoon press conference wasn’t just about celebrating.

When officials first arrived, some were greeted by hecklers, asking elected officials to immediately reinstate a ferry service from Manhattan to the Rockaway.

“Bring back the ferry!” one of the protesters shouted.

Protestors were herded into a special “free-speech zone” just at the foot of the steps leading up to the boardwalk. While there were only a few protesters, this special zone made them stand out, as they were split from the crowd.

The protesters rallied outside the press conference calling for increased public transportation in Queens. Rockaway, in particular, has extremely limited public transportation and requires a toll to enter by vehicle even if you’re already in Queens.

“Our emergency transportation rally was important to let the mayor know we more transportation options in Queens and not less,” Philip McManus of the Queens Public Transit Committee said in an email.

The group wants expanded railway service in the outer boroughs, including a Triboro line and the QueensRail.

They’re also calling for expanded ferry service, increased service on the A train line, eliminating tolls to Rockaway and extending and increasing bus services.

“We need to unite our city with faster transportation and more opportunities,” he said.

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