Reviving the Rockaway Boardwalk, Post-Sandy

by Kyle Chayka on January 30, 2013

The wreckage of Rockaway Boardwalk, post-Sandy (Image via

The wreckage of Rockaway Boardwalk, post-Sandy (Image via

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Rockaway Beach’s iconic boardwalk is all but destroyed. “It’s sheer devastation,” said Queens Parks Commissioner Dorothy Lewandowski. The remains of the structure between Beach 110th Street and Beach 88th Street is a wreckage of concrete frames and sheets of wood. The question that remains is, what should be done to restore the heavily used public space?

"Sandy no. 6" from Drift Relief

“Sandy no. 6” from Drift Relief

In a post in Rockaway’s newspaper The Wave, a resident suggested that the neighborhood host a design competition for the boardwalk. The post references the High Line as an example of how new architecture can revive a “moribund area” (which the old boardwalk certainly wasn’t, but still). The newspaper proposes a competition between local and international architects for the prize of creating a new design. “The boardwalk is the spine, the lifeline of Rockaway,” The Wave writes. “Let’s not settle for functional.”

As Rockaway has turned into a New York City destination, the chance to remake the boardwalk would be a high-profile gig for any architecture firm, let alone a local up-and-comer. The High Line’s Diller, Scofidio & Renfro would be incredible, but so would Snøhetta, a firm known for their engagement with public space. MAD would definitely come up with something interesting. The possibilities are endless.

The wreckage of Sandy is also getting reused in other ways. Art directors Allbriton Robbins and Hema Patel are taking driftwood from the New Jersey shoreline and painting it in bright stripes, selling the results for charity on their website Drift Relief. Each fragment is labeled with the name of the beach where it was found, in a poetic remembrance of the pre-storm landscape.

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  • The Wave Newspaper

    The area near the old boardwalk is moribund. But still — nice piece.

  • elizabeth

    My fear is that any work that is done to “change” the boardwalk would include the gentrification and the great American Land Grab that will disenfranchise working class families.

    • Terence McNicholas

      If living in a world where a beautifully designed, sustainable, hurricane proof boardwalk is wrong. I don’t want to be right…But in all seriousness Rockaway relies heavily on its summer tourism for economic stimulus, always has. If anything a younger creative class coming into the neighborhood, shopping at our stores, eating at our restaurants and possibly even opening businesses of their own in our vacant storefronts will help the neighborhood. Rockaway is in transition, the last decade won’t go down in history as a prosperous one for our community but with a little help from hipsters, restauranteurs developers and hoteliers the next decade will most likely. Look at the change in quality of life on Rockaway Beach Blvd. in the last few years…Three Cheers for Gentrification!

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