Beach Season Officially Begins!

 Beach Season Officially Begins!

By Katie McFadden

It’s that time of year again. Lifeguards take to their chairs on Saturday, May 25 at 10 a.m., meaning beaches are officially open! In anticipation of another summer season, NYC Parks held their annual beach opening ceremony on Tuesday, May 21.

NYC Parks leaders and staff, elected officials and their representatives, community members and organizations all gathered at the Beach 94th amphitheater on Tuesday for the festive celebration. NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue started things off saying, “What a beautiful day to be here and kick off the beach season right here at Rockaway Beach. There is really no other beach and community in the city quite like this one and we are thrilled to welcome New Yorkers and visitors back to our shores once again for another great summer of fun.”

Donoghue introduced her fellow speakers, before the Channel View School for Research marching band played the national anthem for the crowd. “There’s so much that makes Rockaway Beach a special destination,” Donoghue continued. “From the only surfing areas in NYC to the delicious and diverse cuisine that you can find at our concessions.” She then spoke of some new additions, including the opening of the Arverne East Nature Preserve on Beach 44th Street and a $1.6 million renovation of Bayside Playground on Beach 102nd and Beach Channel Drive, now complete with new public restrooms. She also announced that Parks will be partnering with Queens College to bring performances and art programming to Rockaway and other parks throughout the summer. The crowd got a sneak peek as QC Aaron Copland School of Music’s international ensemble performed before the ceremony began.

Donoghue especially wanted to put focus on water safety tips. As lifeguards are on duty starting Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., she reminded folks to only swim when and where they are on duty. She stressed to everyone to not leave children unattended at the shoreline and that red flags on a beach mean no swimming. She also reminded people to use sunscreen. NYC Parks is once again partnering with Impact Melanoma and Episcopal Health Services to provide free sunscreen at dispensers near boardwalk bathrooms. Lastly, she thanked all of the NYC Parks staff for their hard work to maintain the beach and boardwalk all summer.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said, “Rockaway Beach has always been the crown jewel of our neighborhood and our city and with the opening of the beach season, we get to share that experience.” He thanked all of the government partners and agencies for their hard work. He spoke about the nature preserve opening and spoke about his commitment to bringing more improvements to the peninsula. Part of that includes a plan to bring two public pools to Rockaway, one indoor and one outdoor. “A lot of work still has to be done but I’m confident we’ll get there,” he said. Lastly, as Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson could not be there, who usually brings some jokes to the podium, Richards shared a few in his honor. “What did the sand say when the tide came back in? Long time, no sea,” Richards said to laughs.

Councilwoman Joann Ariola said, “There really isn’t any place in the world like Rockaway. Whether you travel by train, by bus, by ferry, by car, you experience the most beautiful beaches and great restaurants here. This is what our peninsula has to offer, and we want to share that not just with the city, but the world.” She thanked her community partners, including Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers, who was at a city council budget hearing on Tuesday, for their collaboration. She also thanked Parks staff and the NYPD for their work to keep beaches safe.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Colonel Alexander Young was on hand to provide some updates about USACE’s work on the beaches. He announced that they completed Contract 1, building and rehabilitating 19 groins from Beach 149th to Beach 32nd Street. Contract 2 to build reinforced dunes is underway. He advises the public to check the USACE and NYC Parks website for updates on construction areas, as some beaches may be closed while construction takes place. “Together, we are making Rockaway Beach a safer place and a more enjoyable beach for everyone,” he said.

New Community Board 14 District Manager Felicia Johnson was honored to speak at her first beach opening in her new role. She began reading a statement from Congressman Gregory Meeks, who could not be there. As part of that statement, she shared that dune planting has been completed from Beach 75th to Beach 73rd and Beach 127th to Beach 149th, an effort that will continue as USACE continues their dune work. She also reminded folks of a drowning incident on Beach 84th on Sunday and urged people to not swim when lifeguards aren’t present, and that Councilwoman Brooks-Powers is working hard to bring a trauma center to the peninsula to help with such emergencies.

Renee Hastick-Motes, Senior Vice President of Episcopal Health Services, spoke of their partnership with Impact Melanoma to bring free sunscreen to the boardwalk. “Queens has the largest rate of skin cancer in NYC. We hope to limit exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun and decrease developing melanoma. It affects everyone. So we encourage all community members to use sunscreen when out in the sun,” she said.

The ceremony closed with some words from Jacqueline Langsam, Borough Commissioner for NYC Parks. Langsam boasted about Rockaway’s 7.5 miles of shoreline and five-mile boardwalk, making it the biggest beach in the city and the largest urban beach in the U.S. She also reminded folks that it’s the only NYC beach facing the Atlantic Ocean and the only beach in the city with designated surfing areas. “It’s not just these things that make Rockaway Beach special. The Rockaway community, the residents who call Rockaway home—they make it special,” she said.

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