Long Beach officials are trying to lure visitors back to the city after the snow drives them from the sand.
The city last month was approved for a $300,000 grant from the Empire State Development Agency to launch a year-round marketing campaign aimed at drawing tourists before and after beach season. The grant is being matched by $100,000 in local and private donations.
A new campaign, "More than just the beach," is part of the "I Love NY" campaign and markets the barrier island city as a year-round destination. It includes papering LIRR trains with 100,000 tourism brochures.
City officials have previously used marketing campaigns with television advertisements featuring Long Beach native Billy Crystal, who volunteered at no cost, and an "I Love NY" commercial with Billy Joel highlighting Long Island beaches.
State officials first approved a Long Beach marketing campaign in 2013 to declare the city "open for business" after cleaning up from superstorm Sandy, which hit on Oct. 29, 2012.
Long Beach is on target to see its best year for tourism, selling $3.8 million in beach passes and attracting about 25,000 visitors each weekend, City Manager Jack Schnirman said.
"Previously we had a different goal -- to make sure we had a summer season. We were fighting for our economic survival" after Sandy tore across the city, Schnirman said. "Now we're looking at how do we help our local businesses and shops do better in the fall and spring. We want to give our businesses the boost they need."
The city council granted licenses for 10 new businesses that opened in 2014 and increased beach pass sales by 18 percent from 2013 to 2014.
City officials have helped organize and support several year-round events on and away from the boardwalk. Beach passes usually end after Labor Day, but city leaders said they hope several events will keep visitors coming back to visit, dine and shop in Long Beach. Events include the annual Jazz Festival and Long Beach International Film Festival, both to be held later this month.
The colder weather can pose a challenge for a beachside community, but city officials have added winter events including transforming the Kennedy Plaza City Center into an ice-skating rink for the city's Winter Wonderfest with rides and vendors in December. The Boardwalk Lights features holiday lights on the boardwalk and Park Avenue, as well as Christmas tree and menorah lighting ceremonies.
The city also holds First Night New Year's Eve events and Valentine's Weekend Ice on the Plaza, which last year included couples renewing vows.
"It all helps keep our businesses thriving," Long Beach City Councilman Anthony Eramo said. "We're a pretty small, isolated city, and the residents themselves can't keep all the shops in business. Bringing visitors to town in the off season helps keep taxes down."
UPCOMING EVENTS IN LONG BEACH
The Long Beach Public library and Long Beach Hotel will host the 13th annual Long Beach Jazz Festival Sept. 17-20.
Film Fest organizers will host the Long Beach International Film Festival the following weekend, Sept. 24-27. It will feature films at the Long Beach Cinemas for the first time since it closed after Sandy.