QUEENS, N.Y. (Dec. 7, 2012) -- At Rockaway Beach in Queens, N.Y., the boardwalk is gone, ripped apart last month by Hurricane Sandy.

Tom Keenan, a Rockaways resident, remembers the boardwalk well. He and his dog, Clancy, a Maltese-Yorkie mix, took walks along the decades-old wooden promenade nearly every day.

"It was a place where people were active -- walking, running, riding bikes. You had surfing on 90th Street," he said. "It's kind of depressing to look at. I try to focus now on the ocean, not focus on what's happened."

Spanning 91 blocks between Shore Front Parkway and the Atlantic Ocean, the boardwalk took a huge pounding during Sandy. Now the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is helping to dispose of the wood planks and busted-up concrete that were left behind.

Using a fleet of front-end loaders, crawler excavators and dump trucks, the Army Corps is working block by block to clear debris and make way for new sand. Replenishing the beach falls under the New York Department of Parks and Recreation authority.

"We're working directly with [city parks department] on this job," said Pervus Eldridge, a quality assurance specialist with the Army Corps New York Recovery Field Office. "They are concerned about another storm coming through, maybe not in the immediate future, but they want to place sand here as a kind of defense. Before they can do that, we have to clear out this debris."

When Sandy made landfall here last month, it brought a powerful 15-foot storm surge that flooded hundreds of homes, buckled the boardwalk and pushed large parts of the beach into the streets.

The worst damage occurred from Beach 88th Street to 110th Street, where the Army Corps has focused its current debris removal efforts. In this span of blocks, gaping holes exist, as only the boardwalk's concrete pylons remain intact.

Fortifying the shoreline is the first step in a long process of rebuilding the area. For every block cleared of debris by the Army Corps, there is a dump truck full of sand waiting to unload.

"It's moving fast," said Eldridge. "These crews are cleaning and dumping at the same time. It gets raked, and they're on to the next block."

Most of the sand is coming from nearby Jacob Riis Park, a temporary storage site set up by the city to truck storm-damage debris. There is roughly 68,000 cubic yards of sand at Riis available for beach replenishment projects at the Rockaways, Staten Island and Breezy Point, all of which were heavily impacted by Sandy.

City parks officials expect to open parts of the boardwalk by next summer, in time for the tourist season. For locals like Keenan and his dog, Clancy, that's reason for a long walk.