Most of NYC's summer spots damaged by Sandy will be ready for the season
The city is racing the clock to ready beaches and waterfront destinations heavily damaged by Superstorm Sandy for summer's Memorial Day kickoff.
Workers are rebuilding boardwalks and replenishing beaches with tons of sand.
Some venues, such as South Street Seaport in lower Manhattan are already coming back to life slowly — and the Statue of Liberty is set open by July 4.
On its web site, the Park Deparment has been giving updates, with photos and video, on city-run beaches:
“The majority of NYC parks and playgrounds have re-opened. Due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, some properties will continue to be closed as we address conditions in the park,” the statement read Sunday.
We looked at the city’s classic warm-weather spots to see how Sandy recovery is coming along, and whether they will be ready for the swarm of New Yorkers looking for a break from the city this summer.
Open date: Opened Sunday
One of the city's most iconic summer refuges was among the most badly hit during Sandy, with parts of the amusement area and surrounding businesses being submerged in to six to 10 feet of water.
The main building for Nathan's Famous was one of those areas, and it still remains closed. Its location on Boardwalk West opened last week, but it could be some time before the main location is open.
The New York Aquarium was entirely flooded, costing a reported $65 million in repairs, and the nonprofit Coney Island USA suffered some $400,000 in damage. The beach and boardwalk were flooded with debris, both of which officials have been poring over to find debris and secure loose boards.
Luna Park and the Cyclone both had extensive electrical damage, the repairs of which were added to the normal opening maintenance.
Despite the enormous damage, almost all of Coney Island was set to open this past weekend, with only the aquarium and Nathan's Famous main building remaining closed, said Johanna Zaki, director of operations for the Alliance for Coney Island.
"Post-Sandy we're particularly excited about this this year, because they've worked really hard to get those businesses open, and they're opening just five months after the hurricane," Zaki said.
She added: "They've pretty much been working around the clock with their repairs and recovery efforts."
Many businesses, too, had the chance to clean house, and officials are boasting that much of Coney Island will be better than ever.
The aquarium, however, will have only a limited opening sometime this spring, and there's no timetable for Nathan's.
Open date: May 25
Like Fort Tilden and Riis Park, Rockaway Beach is among the hardest-hit areas in the city, with Sandy causing more than $300 million in damage and destroying more than 6 miles of beach along the peninsula.
Equipment such as benches, fences, playground and boardwalk were severely crippled or completely destroyed, and workers have been working since the storm to remove the debris.
One of the toughest tasks for workers was to move sand that was carried away from the beach by the storm - and much of that work had to be done by hand - and more than 150,000 cubic yards of sand have been returned to the beach.
Though the beach suffered catastrophic damage, officials said that 100% of it will be ready to re-open by May 25, and much of the amenities, such as bathrooms and food concessions, will also be ready to go.
Some less-damaged areas of the boardwalk have already opened, with other damaged areas under repair. Already, sections of the boardwalk between Beach 80th and 84th Streets and sections at Beach 32nd and Beach 39th Street have been put back into place.
In areas where bathrooms and lifeguard buildings were severely damaged by Sandy, "permanent, modular buildings to replace destroyed or badly damaged public restrooms or lifeguard stations," officials said.
And, for the first-time ever, the beach will get a wine bar, Capital New York reported earlier this month.
Located near the Boarders surf shop, the wine bar will be at 9111 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, between 91st and 92nd streets, where glasses will start at $6 and tapas at $4, Capital reported.
Open date: Memorial Day Weekend
During the storm, water pushed through Jacob Riis Park's historic art deco bathhouse, the police building and lifeguard station, and sand and debris littered the buildings and the beach for weeks. Complicating matters, cleanup crews around the city brought thousands of tons of sand and debris to the park's parking lot, which was one of several such temporary dump sites for flood debris around the city.
"The playground equipment was destroyed. They were under multiple feet of sand, same with the buildings themselves," said Geoffrey Croft, president of NYC Park Advocates, who visited the park a few weeks after Sandy.
"It certainly was a mess, he said, adding that sand had gotten into the bathhouse and the doors of the concession stand were open with “water everywhere."
"The main building, that sustained a lot of damage as well - the hurricane went right in there," he said.
Months after the storm, the Army Corps of Engineers filtered debris from sand in the parking lot. Once it was cleaned, the sand was sent to Rockaway Beaches.
Though some debris remains, the lot is mostly cleared, officials said, and by the parks' scheduling opening over Memorial Day weekend it will be fully functional.
Still, some amenities will be closed, and as of a couple of weeks ago, fences still enclosed the park's main buildings. They will be down soon, however, said Daphne Yun, a spokeswoman for the Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes the park.
The concession will be closed, but the National Parks Service has coordinated with city officials to allow food trucks to serve visitors at Jacob Riis. The playgrounds were severely damaged and won't be open this summer. And while officials would like it to, the old bathroom facility may not reopen with the park.
"But we will have bathroom facilities of some kind, obviously," Yun said.
Yun said some people questioned the timeliness of the federal parks' recovery, but noted the Hurricane Sandy Recovery Bill was not signed until January.
"The fact that we are getting stuff off the ground at this point is pretty fast for the federal government," she said.
Open date: TBD
Just down the road from Breezy Point, Fort Tilden beach is in the middle of some of the city's most severely damaged areas. Erosion along the beach is one of the major problems, officials said, and parts of the road nearby were thrown onto the beach by the storm.
"It's too dangerous to open at this point," said Daphne Yun, a spokeswoman for the Gateway National Recreation Area, which oversees the beach and a handful of other outdoor areas.
"The erosion brought up dangers that hadn't been evident before, and the debris on the beach is just so much that we can't safely open it," she said.
The damage was so severe that debris removal hasn't even begun and officials have shifted resources to other projects because Fort Tilden beach will require so much work. There's no timeframe for when debris removal might begin, much less an opening date, Daphne said, declining to say whether it would be open by summer 2014.
"We're trying to juggle so many elements, and Gateway has a lot of different small units," she said, "but other than in the very beginning, we haven't been able to do any work on it."
This story has been updated since its original publication.