Editor’s note: This article is part of a series in which Newsday attempts to answer questions from Long Islanders about life on the Island. If there’s a question you want us to answer, send it to us here.
Question: Whatever happened to Field 9 at Jones Beach? — Reader Carol Ludwig, Wantagh
If you visited Jones Beach before 1975, you probably remember parking at Field 9. Perhaps a family member or neighbor called it “the best one” and urged you to park there for its proximity to the ocean. Or maybe, you avoided it at all costs, because it was so popular there was never a space available.
But if you visit Jones Beach today, you’d never know Field 9 existed. So what happened?
That proximity to the ocean that made it so popular was also the undoing of Field 9.
The parking lot was closed for good because erosion had severely undermined it, said George Gorman, deputy regional director of New York State Parks. The field was last used in 1975, according to park records.
Gorman said the original building at Field 9, located east of Field 6, was designed to look like a boat and offered amenities such as changing rooms, bathrooms and a snack bar. The field and a building that stood there were demolished in 1977.
Jones Beach State Park, a grand production of urban planner Robert Moses, opened in 1929, but it wasn’t until 1937 that Field 9 opened, according to state park records.
Field 9 later pops up in fishing coverage when it became a popular field for fishermen, families and young people in the 1950s and '60s.
Newsday articles from the time show that from the late '50s on, tension grew between fishermen and swimmers over who got access to the most desirable ocean beaches, Fields 6 and 9. Fishermen said it had the best fishing and was easier to get to than the other fields where fishing was allowed.
Rowdy teens also took a liking to the beach as an oceanside hangout spot. In 1953, a group of 30 or 40 teens having a party at the beach damaged fences and lit them on fire, causing $500 in damage.
Later, much of the social activity moved toward other parts of the beach. Pete Ruggiero, 69, said he visited Field 9 in the mid 1960s, when he was a Levittown high school student, because he’d heard the body surfing there was better. But it was a quiet beach and as he got older, he and his friends wanted to be closer to the action on the boardwalk.
Ruggiero is a founding member of the Jones Beach Bums, a kind of alumni association for a large group of Long Island natives who hung out at Jones Beach as teens and young adults in the 1970s.
“It was a nice place if you wanted to read a book and you didn’t want to be disturbed,” Ruggiero, now of upstate Brewster, said. “It was a farther away beach so it wasn’t a main concession stand and you just didn’t have access to the stuff at the main beach.”
Over time, the weather and natural tides ate away at the sand supporting it all and Gorman said at a certain point, it was no longer feasible to keep it open. A Newsday story from 1978 noted that pipe infrastructure may also have contributed to the erosion.
Workers demolished the building and left some areas of the concrete lot to be overtaken by nature. Some chunks of concrete and asphalt remained for decades, popping up in photos from Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and superstorm Sandy in 2012.
In 2018, there’s nothing left. It’s unlikely that any other lot will face the same fate as Field 9, since the sand on Jones Beach has changed course and is actually growing, Gorman said, including where Field 9 once stood.
“It’s just sand dunes now,” he said. “If you walked along the beach you’d never know it was there.”