Reviving the Rockaway Boardwalk, Post-Sandy

The wreckage of Rockaway Boardwalk, post-Sandy (Image via CNN.com)
The wreckage of Rockaway Boardwalk, post-Sandy (Image via CNN.com)

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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