Beachgoers and park employees alike were supremely irritated this weekend after officials shut down Rockaway Beach...without actually shutting down Rockaway Beach.
Officials were roaming the beaches Saturday informing people that the two-mile stretch between Beach 60th and Beach 113th Streets was closed because of work being done by the Army Corps of Engineers to rehabilitate the beach from heavy damage sustained during Hurricane Sandy. But the Parks Department didn't tell anyone beforehand that they wouldn't be allowed to swim this whole weekend: "There are a lot of families and children swimming, and there is no one here to watch them," Sylvia Jager told the News. "Someone is going to drown, and the city is going to be at fault."
According to A Walk In The Park, lifeguards were pulled from duty and red flags were put up around the stretch, but Parks Enforcement officers only started telling people to get out of the water around noon Saturday. Henry Garrido, associate director of lifeguard union DC-37, told the News that this section of the beach was closed because of a massive pipe and high piles of sand left by construction crews; Garrido said this would prevent emergency vehicles from rescuing people. But nobody who was there actually saw that debris.
"Why is the pubic being prevented from using the water but the beach is not shut down?" an officer at the scene asked A Walk In The Park when told of the City's explanation. "There is no equipment being moved, that's complete BS. This makes no sense. If there was heavy equipment being moved up and down wouldn't the beach be closed. There is something else going on here that they are not telling us. And now I was just told the same thing is happening tomorrow as well."
Another officer told the News: "We didn’t know why we were there. People were annoyed. They wanted answers about what was going on and how long they had to stay out of the water, but we had no answers for them."
Parks spokesman Phil Abramson says that this stretch of beach has been closed since Memorial Day weekend, but there were no warnings on the Parks website about it still being closed this weekend. And some beachgoers claim that lifeguards were on duty Friday: "We were here yesterday and there were lifeguards on duty," said Charlie Gruber. "No one told us it was going to be closed today. How were we to know?"
"Unless they literally close off the beach from the street, then people are going to go in the water," Tiffany Mayers told the News. "There are kids and teenagers who go to that beach on their own, and naturally they’re going to go in the water."
Of course, the rehabilitation project was supposed to be done by now. But a series of mechanical problems caused serious delays earlier this year—and there's no word on when the project will be finished.