It's been almost a year and a half since Hurricane Sandy devastated the Rockaways, but cleanup work has finally begun at the beaches at Fort Tilden. The beloved "DIY" beaches there, which are managed by the National Park Service's Gateway Recreation Area, have been closed to the public since the hurricane, and until now it was unclear if they would be open this summer.
Now Gateway spokesperson Daphne Yun says, "We are planning to open it. The cleanup started Wednesday." The work involves clearing debris from the beach, which includes pieces of roadway behind the beach that were blasted into the sand. "Some of that road debris is still in the beach," Yun said.
Fort Tilden does not have lifeguards or amenities, but has become increasingly popular in recent years for its relative seclusion. Asked why it took until last week to begin the cleanup, Yun said, "Last year Fort Tilden was not a priority because it's not a lifeguarded beach." Indeed, Gateway did reopen the beaches at Sandy Hook, Jacob Riis, and Great Kills beach on Staten Island last year. "The life guarded beaches were our priority," Yun told us. "Gateway is a large park. It's 26,000 acres. We're in Jamaica Bay, we're in Staten Island, we're in New Jersey. It takes time to analyze all the projects we have to do." It's not possible to do work during piping plover nesting season, Yun added.
In addition, the contracting process for the federal government isn't known for speed. The money for hurricane recovery wasn't allocated until May 2013. $175.2 million was released in total for the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife, and various geological surveys. And there's still work to be done beyond Tilden—the marina at Great Kills is still not finished, and there is still repair work underway at Sandy Hook.