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Rockaway rallies for rock jetties

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Photo gallery

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Children play on the broken Rockaway boardwalk as dozens of people attend a rally in favor of rock jetties. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Mikey Keller and his sister Kaleigh climb on the remaining structure of the Rockaway Beach boardwalk near Beach 87th Street during a rally calling for rock jetties to be added to the shore. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Averne resident James Hartley carries his daughter Maya, 5, on his shoulders during the rally. Photo by Christina Santucci
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John Cori (L.) and Eddy Pastore, founders of Friends of Rockaway Beach, organized the rally. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Susan Brady holds 3-year-old Fiona during the rally. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Youngsters Juliette Mulligan and Emily O’Connor, both 3, make sand angels on the beach. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Deputy Inspector Scott J. Olexa, commander of the 100th Precinct, addresses the crowd. Photo by Christina Santucci
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A person dressed as Elmo walks on a rock jetty during a rally to add more jetties to the beach in the Rockaways. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Children play on the remnants of the boardwalk. Photo by Christina Santucci
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Sally McGonigle, who has lived in the Rockaways for 54 years, cheers for a person dressed as Elmo. Photo by Christina Santucci

Shortly after Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he wanted the boardwalks in the Rockaways to be rebuilt with concrete, about 300 residents and activists from the peninsula and beyond gathered on the beach Sunday to declare rock jetties are what saved the surf from complete devastation.

“Jetties work,” said John Cori, co-founder of the civic group Friends of Rockaway Beach, which has advocated for replenishment of the beach in the past. “Jetties work very well.”

Cori’s organization held a rally Sunday afternoon on the sand near Beach 86th Street. The beach in that area has rock jetties installed, and while the lumber and concrete boardwalk was damaged in the area, the group said areas with jetties fared better when Superstorm Sandy hit the peninsula at the end of October.

Bloomberg had told The Wave, the weekly newspaper in the Rockaways, that in the wake of the storm, the concrete boardwalks held up better than the lumber ones.

“There will be no more wooden boardwalks in Rockaway or anywhere else,” he said.

But those at the rally said the jetties were what kept the boardwalk from being completely decimated. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Department of Environmental Conservation have been doing a study since the early 2000s on beach erosion in Rockaway, but the residents said the time to act is now.

“No more studies,” said Lew Simon, an activist from the peninsula. “It is quite obvious that the jetties saved this end of the boardwalk.”

Hector Mosley, spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, said in response, “The Army Corps is still assessing the alternatives and we’ll need to evaluate the assessments in the light of the changed condition post-Hurricane Sandy.”

Many civic and community leaders spoke in favor of building rock jetties and encouraged the residents to continue to lobby elected officials not only to get jetties installed but to fight to ensure the community has a seat at the table as the boardwalk and beach are rebuilt.

“We are the stakeholders in the community. We decide,” said Noreen Ellis, president of the Rockaway Civic Association. “We can’t let the Army Corps of Engineers sit on their tuchus and wait for a report.”

Some of those elected officials were already on board. State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) said Rockaway residents band together to fight for their community.

“We need to be sending the message we know what we need, we need to get it done now,” Goldfeder said.

City Councilman Erich Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said he would work to make sure the residents’ voices were heard.

“Rockaway, I believe, like the phoenix, is going to rise from the ashes,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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