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Safety Concerns Prompt Closure Of Large Section Of Rockaway Beach Shoreline

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Beachgoers are bummed in Queens after the city announced plans to close a big section of Rockaway Beach.

Summer at the popular destination will be very different this year when the city shuts down an 11 block stretch of sand due to safety concerns.

"You can't really have it open with this much room," resident Robert Butler said. "Where are lifeguards going to set up?"

Longtime resident John Cori spoke to CBS2 in April about the ongoing erosion that he says should have been addressed and resolved years ago.

"It's not unexpected," he said. "We've been talking about this and warning the city."

Cori adds that the Army Corps of Engineers has been slow to act.

"We know the issue, they're closing the beaches," he said. "We need to get the federal government in."

City beaches are slated to open this Memorial Day Weekend, but the area between Beach 91st street and Beach 102nd Street will officially be off-limits. A section of beach in front of the 97th Street concessions area and bathrooms will be open, but there will be no access to the water.

Some worry the lack of beach could mean a bust for local businesses.

"All these people have their whole livelihoods, some of the businesses are only seasonal," resident Casey Butler said.

Local business owner Robert Kaskel says the summer is make or break time for him.

"If we have to have less beaches there's going to be a lot less people here and it'll be a lot harder to make a go of it," he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers is expected to begin work on the reformulation project sometime next year, but residents say it's just not soon enough.

"We need to get the project started and the groins in and the sand in place," Cori said. "The reinforcement of the dunes has to happen today."

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz released a statement calling the closure "unacceptable," adding that "the Rockaways deserve better."

It wasn't immediately known how long the 12-block stretch will be closed.

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