An 11-block stretch of Rockaway Beach will be off-limits to swimming this summer, the NYC Parks Department announced yesterday, days before the city's beaches open for the season. According the announcement, swimming will be prohibited in the area between Beach 91st Street and Beach 102nd Street "in order to maintain the protective dune and keep swimmers safe." Yesterday's announcement angered many in the Rockaway community, where the problem of beach erosion has been a concern for some time now:

High tides often rise all the way to the boardwalk on this section of the beach, which will need to be restored. The city says its working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers "to expedite their Rockaway and Jamaica Bay Reformulation Project, which will build a new reinforced dune, groins, and replenish sand along the Rockaway shoreline." But that vital work is not expected to begin until 2019 at the earliest.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz called the city's decision "unacceptable...This will significantly hurt the local community and Queens economy during the vital visitor season."

An assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato, whose district includes Far Rockaway, said in a statement, "I am adamantly opposed to the city’s plan to close part of our beach right before Memorial Day weekend - the unofficial start of summer. Not only will this significantly hurt our local communities and residents but will hinder our economy. We have been demanding sand and resiliency measures for our beaches for years - and this is how the city reacts, by closing 12 blocks of the beach? That’s not a solution."

The Rockaway community has been raising the alarm about beach erosion for years. In her statement, BP Katz wrote, "When the Army Corps last replaced 3.5 million cubic yards of sand on the Rockaway Beaches in 2014, the community repeatedly warned the City that without permanent protective measures, the sand would soon need to be replaced again. The consequences of the City’s failure to act earlier will be disproportionately borne by the Rockaway community."

WNYC reporter Brigid Bergin was one of many calling attention to the disappearing beach in May of last year:

The city stresses that 4.5 miles of Rockaway Beach will still be open to swimming, as will the boardwalk along the off-limits beachfront. “This decision was made in the interest of safety, and that will always remain our top priority,” said Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver. “The rebirth of Rockaway Beach stands as a symbol of this community’s strength and determination to move forward after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, so having to close even just a small portion of it is very difficult for us."

The city's beaches open for swimming on Saturday, with lifeguards on duty though Labor Day.