Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Rockaway Recovery, Part 1: Head to the Beach!

It's been seven months since Sandy destroyed much of the Queens shoreline, and fire decimated Breezy Point. Foundations are all that remain of many homes, as the debris has long since disappeared. Sheets of sand cover traces of driveways and front yards, and blue tarps still stitch together gaping roofs.

Sandy's waterline is still visible throughout the beachfront community.
But rebirth and recovery are the prevalent themes everywhere you look. Rebuilding proceeds apace, and the streets are dotted with contractors' placards and wooden "Stars of Hope," sent by well-wishers around the country and nailed to telephone poles.

"Star of Hope" in Breezy Point, Queens

Rockaway Beach is back, trailed ever so slightly by a very new--and very sturdy--concrete boardwalk, handsomely detailed with crushed glass aggregate of blues and greens.

A utilitarian, but cheerily-painted, brick concession stand sits on the upland edge of the boardwalk, evidently still under construction. Undoubtedly the Rockaway Beach Club vendors are anxiously tracking its progress in the hopes of soon returning.

Opposite the concession stands, a galvanized steel structure has been erected, still adorned in shrink wrap and awaiting the rest of the sun shades that have begun to form a canopy.

Along the east end of the boardwalk, we stumbled upon two exquisite alien life forms... a couple of modular beach structures designed by DUMBO's Garrison Architects. Merely a half year ago, NYC selected Garrison to design and build 37 such buildings as part of the reconstruction of the city's beaches most damaged by the storm. They will be used as lifeguard stations, comfort stations and offices, all easily accessible by ramp from the boardwalks. The prefabricated buildings were sized to travel to their sites on the backs of flat bed trucks. Once there, they were fastened to a series of concrete piles, ensuring that the stations would be elevated above FEMA storm surge levels. As further defense against the elements, the buildings are constructed with a galvanized steel super frame, bolted to the concrete piles, and clad with high-grade stainless steel and glass-fiber reinforced concrete (what looks like wood siding in the photos below). Reported to be net-zero energy users, the stations feature rain screens and double-ventilated roofs, natural lighting through clerestories, skylights and reflective louvers, natural ventilation, and photovoltaic solar arrays to offset energy consumption.

A corrugated stainless steel outer skin is perforated at the roof, providing thermally-efficient ventilation of the enclosure. In the second photo below, you can see that the sheathing--which will eventually continue across the underside of the building--is attached to the structure with steel zee-clips.

The corrugated metal sheathing traces the edge of the galvanized steel super frame.
Detail of lower corner, with glass-fiber-reinforced concrete siding, galvanized frame, and corrugated cladding
View of concrete piles anchored to the shore
Though we traveled by car, the subway lines have recently reopened to Rockaway Beach. To get there, take the A Train to Far Rockaway/Mott Avenue. At the last stop, transfer to the S line, taking it towards Rockaway Park/Beach 116th Street. Get out at Beach 98th Street, and walk south towards the beach.

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