ROCKAWAY BEACH —The newly-appointed Parks Department commissioner kicked off the summer season by promising to evaluate ways to speed up boardwalk reconstruction — which isn't supposed to be completed until 2017.
The announcement came as the department said that free wifi will be coming to the beach at six locations — Beach 9th through Beach 12th streets, Beach 73rd, Beach 86th, Beach 97th, Beach 106th and Beach 116th streets.
Commissioner Mitchell Silver, who spoke at the official opening of Rockaway Beach for the 2014 season, said the sight of large swaths of beach without a boardwalk was "emotional."
The Brooklyn native said the beach recovery from Hurricane Sandy was one of the reasons he left a job as the Planning Director of Raleigh, N.C. to become the city's Parks Commissioner.
"It's very moving that I'm back," he said.
"We'll certainly take a look at the timeline to see if there's any way to get the project done sooner," he said.
Silver, who hadn't been back to the peninsula since Hurricane Sandy ravaged much of it, said he understood why residents were so insistent about it coming back as quickly as possible.
"To see most of the boardwalk gone clearly was emotional because you have memories of when you were here, about what used to be there," he said.
"So I can empathize with the residents here about what they'd like to see back as quickly as possible."
The first phase of the boardwalk project began in the Beach 80s and will run to Beach 97th Street, and is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2015, the Parks Department said.
The entire boardwalk rebuild project is expected to be completed by Memorial Day 2017.
Silver also spoke about the sand replenishment project, which — due to delays throughout the winter — has forced the closure of some beaches at the beginning of the season as beachgoers are faced with large sand dunes.
"The important thing is to get the beach recovered and get safety in place," he said.
New York City's beaches are open on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. through Labor Day. For more information, visit the Parks Department website.