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Attendance up sharply at Amityville's municipal beach this summer

Amityville's municipal beach, badly damaged by superstorm Sandy and suffering from years of low attendance, rebounded this summer.

New amenities such as beach volleyball, movie nights and evening cookouts helped spur a renewal of interest, with 1,023 free beach permits issued to village households this year, up from 742 in 2013.

While the village does not track daily attendance, more than 150 people, mostly children, typically came during weekdays, and more than 125, mostly adults, came on weekends, beach manager Jerry Pollock said.

One recent night, as the regular season for the nine-team beach volleyball league drew to a close, about 80 players and fans filled the new volleyball area.

As a softball game went into its final innings in nearby James Caples Memorial Park, dozens more residents, including former Mayor Lou Howard, dined on lobster rolls and sandwiches in the once-flooded pavilion.

"A night like this thrills me to death," said Michelle Ryan, an occupational therapist who is chairwoman of the village beach committee. "This gem belongs to the village and its residents, and it was underutilized. . . . We're going to keep building."

Generations of Amityville children learned swimming, sailing and archery at the 1.5-acre beach, provided by the village for free or at low cost, said Pollock, a retired teacher who began working summers there in 1964.

But use of the beach had begun to fall off even before Sandy, and extensive damage to the pavilion concession stand kept away some residents who wanted snacks and lunch along with their sand and sun.

A team of volunteers led by plumbing contractor Dave Heller rebuilt the pavilion this year, and a vendor, Juliane DeVecchis, began making meals during days and one night a week. Special sand -- softer than the type normally found on bay beaches -- was trucked in to allow beach volleyball play to start in late June. A club coach, Michael Carroll, ran an instructional night every Monday; resident Julie Dexter ran a Wednesday night adult league that filled up almost immediately.

Further redevelopment, including a sprinkler run, boccie and shuffleboard courts and a shaded area, is planned for next year, with the bulk of the costs to be covered by the roughly $300,000 remainder of a $500,000 grant secured in 2008 by then-Republican state Sen. Owen Johnson, whose district included the site, for beach revitalization. The village has used $200,000 of that to repair bulkheading and a boat ramp near the beach.

For Daniel Wade, 29, who works in human resources at a software development company and was playing volleyball last week, the amenities were only part of the draw.

His wife, cousin, sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law made up his team; a local restaurant, Vittorio's, sponsored them.

"We know most of the other teams," he said. "They're buddies, or they're familiar faces from the village."

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