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City completes reconstruction project featuring ‘porous pavement’ to combat flooding in Rockaway Park

Jun. 14, 2023 By John Schilling

Representatives from city agencies gathered together in Rockaway Park on Tuesday, June 13, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to announce the completion of the $16.6 million infrastructure project dedicated to rebuilding the peninsula’s Beach 108th Street. 

Among the block’s newest features is 11,000 square feet of new permeable concrete slabs, also referred to as “porous pavement,” designed for better drainage into the ground below. The ceremony included a demonstration of the porous pavement’s draining abilities, as workers from the Department of Environmental Protection poured water onto the concrete from a nearby hydrant.

NYC DEP workers demonstrate the porous pavement.Photo by John Schilling

“The really, really cool factor is [it’s] the first time on a city project that we have our permeable concrete that we’re working out here,” said Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Thomas Foley. “It’s the show-stopper.”

Beach 108th Street was one of many blocks on the Rockaway peninsula that suffered damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012, contributing to the large size of the rebuilding project. As a result, the Department of Environmental Protection’s Unified Stormwater Rule, which took effect in 2022, required the use of Green Infrastructure in the project. The department will also require this for other similar projects citywide. 

“We’re going to be doing this everywhere, not just here in Rockaway so it’s an important step forward,” said Department of Environmental Protection Chief Operating Officer Vincent Sapienza. “We really need to make our surfaces more permeable so that they soak up that rainfall.”

Department of Environmental Protection Chief Operating Officer Vincent Sapienza addresses the crowd.Photo by John Schilling

The city estimates that the addition of porous pavement to Beach 108th Street will allow the block to absorb and drain approximately 1.3 million gallons of stormwater into the ground annually. The repairing of approximately 1,100 feet of existing storm sewers and 22 catch basins, as well as the addition of 140 feet of new storm sewers and three new catch basins, will help support the excess water drainage. The project also replaced about 6,000 feet of old water mains and added two new fire hydrants.

“By including porous pavement in this reconstruction of Beach 108th Street, we are keeping more than a million gallons of stormwater out of the sewers each year which will reduce localized flooding and help protect the health of Jamaica Bay,” NYC Chief Climate Officer and DEP Commissioner Rohit T. Aggarwala said in a statement. 

The porous pavement soaks up the excess water to prevent flooding.Photo by John Schilling

Beach 108th Street’s reconstruction, which broke ground in March 2021, also saw the addition of other safety upgrades to help the neighborhood better manage traffic and parking concerns. With that, however, came a long construction period that inconvenienced locals, especially the residents of the nearby bungalows. 

“People here in Rockaway have been waiting for this day for a very long time,” said District 32 City Councilwoman Joann Ariola. “We’ve seen a lot of traffic disruption and inconveniences while this project was ongoing, but now, we can finally get past that and enjoy this beautiful new street.”

To address transportation, Beach 108th Street now also includes a 1600-foot-long median in the block’s center with a two-way, grade-separated bike lane that offers a direct path from the NYC Ferry terminal on Beach Channel Drive to the boardwalk and beach. 

The project also added 58 new trees and benches to the block and replaced old concrete curbs spanning more than a mile with adjacent sidewalks and 18,000 square yards of asphalt for paving. 

“This work builds on lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy,” said Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia. “These additions create a safer, more welcoming corridor, not just for the visitors to the Rockaways but for all roadway users and the community.”

Department of Transportation Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia speaks on the project’s benefits.Photo by John Schilling

As for parking, the project also added 20 new parking spaces to the area via angled parking designations on the block, a design that also allowed for new widened sidewalks, new crosswalks, and curb extensions both at crossings and near an MTA bus stop on Rockaway Beach Boulevard. 

Queens Community Board 14 Chairperson Dolores Orr believes the block’s new design will not only help the busy area but also relieve those who previously doubted the project. 

“As much as we tried to explain the vision, a lot of folks didn’t see it,” Orr said. “Now that it’s done, not a word from anyone.”

For New York State Office of Resilient Homes and Communities Executive Director Katie Brennan, the new project is a prime example of Rockaway’s continued recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy as it addressed multiple things the community has asked for over the years.

“Community members identified three big priorities that they wanted for the long-term recovery of this area,” recalled Brennan. “It was protecting from flooding, strengthened community resiliency, and economic revitalization, and this project reflects all three of those strategies.”

Victoria Cerullo, the acting executive director for the Mayor’s Office of Climate & Environmental Justice, added that while Rockaway’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy is far from complete, the completion of this project is a good start.

“Rockaway residents who experience flooding will feel the immediate impact of this project,” Cerullo said. “I personally look forward to biking down Beach 108th this summer to get to the beach and all the great concessions.”

“The completion of this project is yet another milestone in our march to progress here in Rockaway,” Ariola said. “I look forward to what the future holds for us all.”

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