“We are very excited about the opening today, as we are every year when we get together,” Borough President Melinda Katz said. “We are celebrating the greatest beach in the City of New York.”
The ceremony also celebrated a few new additions, including two new kayaking beaches at Beach 32nd and Beach 57th streets, as well as a new surfing beach at Beach 110th and Beach 111th streets.
The Parks Department also announced it will offer an outdoor dance performance series, free fitness classes, waterfront festivals and outdoor movies.
While the tenor of the ceremony was one of a celebration, it was also acknowledged that just one day before a 19-year-old from East Elmhurst drowned near Beach 67th Street.
“This incident is a reminder of the absolute necessity that New Yorkers should never enter the water when there is no lifeguard present,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “Going into the ocean or any waterbody not supervised by a lifeguard can have tragic consequences.”
State Senator James Sanders said that anyone not familiar with the Rockaways should know there’s a precipitous drop-off once you step into the water. He urged Silver to keep lifeguards on duty later into the day.
“The sun does not go down until 9 p.m.,” he said. “Perhaps we can go to 7:30 p.m. or something of that nature.”
Many officials also applauded the Rockaway community for their resilience and holding the officials accountable for the recovery efforts following Hurricane Sandy.
“While there’s so many people all over the city that like to take credit for so many of the great things that happen here in Southern Queens and Rockaway especially, anybody who was here during Sandy knows that nobody came to save us,” said Assemblyman Phil Godlfeder. “So where we are today is no thanks to anybody but the great people who are sitting in front of me.”