Gov. Kathy Hochul said the Jones Beach east bathhouse is to get a $100 million renovation with a focus on teaching kids to swim. NewsdayTV's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: NewsdayTV

The abandoned Jones Beach East Bathhouse will undergo a $100 million renovation, converting the vacant, near century-old building into a sprawling pool complex with an emphasis on teaching young children to swim, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday on the eve of Memorial Day weekend.

The move comes as drownings statewide have reached record levels, the governor said.

The project is expected to begin in the winter with the demolition of the 95-year-old building that shut down in 2008 and is the oldest structure in the park. It is the final major construction project scheduled for Jones Beach State Park.

The renovated bathhouse is expected to reopen in the summer of 2026. The complex will include a “learn to swim” pool for inexperienced swimmers, splash pads, a spray park and a dry playground area.

“This is a place where families connect and memories are created,” Hochul said at a Jones Beach news conference, where she also announced additional funding to combat a statewide lifeguard shortage and for shark monitoring. “And so this becomes generational for individuals who love and cherish what we have here with this incredible asset.”

Randy Simons, commissioner pro tempore of the State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, said the pool at the recently renovated Jones Beach West Bathhouse, which underwent a $16 million overhaul, can have a two-hour wait on some scorching summer days. 

“So this is going to alleviate some of that wait time,” Simons said of the East Bathhouse project.

In 2016, the state sought proposals from private entities interested in renovating — and funding — the Jones East Bathhouse.

But the effort was dropped when the state received only two expressions of interest, one a sports bar and the other focused on indoor sports. Neither group committed to funding the work or considered reopening the Bathhouse's Olympic-size pool.

More than 230 New Yorkers died in drowning incidents in 2021, a record high for the state, Hochul said. And drownings are now the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 4 nationwide, and the second leading cause of death for kids ages 5 to 14.

“It's every parent's worst nightmare. And the pain is not shared equally among our population,” Hochul said, noting that children in low-income communities of color, which have seen decades of disinvestment in swimming facilities, suffer disproportionately higher rates of drownings.

Bobby Hazen, co-founder of the New York Water Safety Coalition, said thus far in 2024 there had been 350 drowning deaths nationwide, 79 involving children 12 and younger. 

“There's more access to water and less swimming lessons being given so there's more dangers out there,” Hazen said.

Hochul on Thursday also directed $5 million in funding for towns, villages and cities across the state, including on Long Island, to address a lifeguard shortage. The funding, state officials said, can be used for lifeguard retention and referral bonuses, supplementing hourly wages and pay increases and advertisements for vacant positions.

In 2022, the state increased salaries for downstate lifeguards by 21%, from $18.15 per hour to $22 per hour.

The 2025 state budget, Hochul said, also includes $2 million for SUNY campuses to offer lifeguard certification courses, expand access to learn-to-swim classes for children and to incentivize students who are skilled swimmers to become lifeguards.

An additional $150 million in grant funding in the budget is allocated for municipalities to acquire, design, construct or renovate swimming facilities and natural swimming areas.

The governor also announced that Long Island State parks would increase the number of drones and trained drone pilots capable of monitoring Long Island's waterways for sharks this summer.

Parks Police, she said, also will operate a new larger drone with thermal imaging, capable of flying at night and in adverse weather conditions and with the ability to drop personal flotation devices into the water in emergencies.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland. The conversation continues on newsday.com/nextli where we invite Long Islanders to share their experiences on this looming crisis of changing weather patterns, flooding, shoreline protection, home buyouts and more to find potential solutions for the region’s future.

Paying the Price: Long Island's stormy future Newsday Live and nextLI present a conversation with experts on the impact of powerful storms and rising insurance costs on Long Island hosted by NewsdayTV Anchor/Reporter Macy Egeland.

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME