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Beaches open despite Superstorm Sandy scars

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

NEW YORK — Not all the repairs are finished, not all the sand is replaced, and not every nearby business has recovered.

But seven months after Superstorm Sandy devastated hundreds of miles of shoreline, most of New York's beaches are officially open this Memorial Day weekend.

After a cleanup effort that cost tens of millions of dollars, visitors from the Rockaways to the Hamptons will be able to enjoy miles of seashores that have been groomed and cleaned up by volunteers and work crews.

In some places, two-story-tall sand dunes have been washed away. In other places, miles-long stretches of boardwalk still need to be replaced. In still others, sunbathers may have to squeeze their towels a little closer on beaches shrunken by the effects of erosion.

“People are going to rewrite the formula for the beach,” says Andrew Field, co-owner of the popular Rockaway Taco restaurant near Queens' Rockaway Beach, a 7-mile stretch of sand off the Atlantic Ocean that was perhaps the city's hardest-hit beachfront. Repairs at Rockaway Beach have so far cost about $140 million.

“They're going to stand in front of the beach, look to the left and look to the right, and say, ‘Where do we go?' ”

At Rockaway Beach, about half of the 5.5 miles of boardwalk was destroyed by the storm. The city plans to replace it. The Army Corps of Engineers will work to restore 3.6 million cubic yards of sand in a stretch of beach where, at high tide, what last summer was prime real estate for sunbathing is now part of the ocean.

The work to restore a 100-foot-wide beach from the boardwalk will occur periodically throughout the summer.

“It'll totally be different,” says Field, whose beachside concession stand won't open until July, though his main taco spot blocks from the beach opened this month despite severe damage from the late-October storm.

Still, after spending more than $270 million in repair costs, all 14 miles of New York City's beaches are open for the Memorial Day weekend, including Coney Island, Brighton and Manhattan Beaches in Brooklyn; Orchard Beach in the Bronx; Midland, Wolfe's Pond, Cedar Grove and South Beaches in Staten Island; and, of course, Rockaway Beach in Queens.

Farther east at Long Beach on Long Island, officials hope a new $44 million boardwalk will be 20 percent constructed by mid-July, though the remainder of the beachfront appears intact, with dozens of volleyball nets arrayed down the beach and lifeguard stands placed high above sand piles.

Jason Schatzberg, owner of the eatery Paninis and Bikinis, says the key to this beach season will be patience.

“It's coming back. Everything takes time and I don't think people understand that,” says Schatzberg, whose shop just blocks from the shore was submerged in 4 feet of water and won't be open until a couple of weeks after Memorial Day. “You can't expect a major devastation and all of a sudden everything's normal again.”

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