It's time to take back the beaches.
Hitting the sand over Memorial Day weekend is sacrosanct for many Long Islanders, and it's particularly poignant this year on the South Shore, where superstorm Sandy's floods devastated public beaches. Boardwalks buckled, dunes eroded, entire sections of Ocean Beach Parkway collapsed and washed away.
But that was then.
This weekend, the sand and the surf are the stars of the show. Beachgoers will find spruced-up walkways and concession areas at Jones Beach, where the annual Bethpage Air Show takes over the skies tomorrow and Sunday (see B2-3). In Long Beach, there's no boardwalk, but a new "Shoregasbord" food truck court has rolled in for the season. Meanwhile, day trippers to Ocean Beach on Fire Island, can still while away an afternoon strolling between beach and town, where shops and restaurants are back in business.
THE SCENE Ongoing repair work at Jones Beach has all but eradicated signs of damage from superstorm Sandy, just in time for Memorial Day weekend. "It will be the same as it was," says George Gorman, deputy regional director for state parks. Planking on the boardwalk has been restored, food concessions and shops are open.
THE MOOD Last weekend, Vinny Macchio, 39, of Ronkonkoma brought his 9-year-old twins, Jake and Anthony, to Jones Beach for some pre-summer kite flying and shell collecting. It was his first visit since the storm. "The beach seems a bit flatter and there's not as much sand," he said. "But considering the situation, it looks pretty good to me."
Joe Calabrese, 57, of Lindenhurst was encouraged by what he saw. He even spotted his first horseshoe crab of the season. "I didn't know what to expect," he said. "We are happy to see that there's quite a substantial beach left."
WHAT TO EXPECT Some sections of the west end of the park -- Fields 1 and 2 and the West Bath House -- are still undergoing repair. The Friendly's ice cream parlor will open later in the summer, as will the repaired game courts, aiming for June 22. The saltwater-logged mini golf course, however, may not open at all, Gorman says.
"Beach people are die-hards," said Liz Calton, 47, of Levittown, who came to check out the waves. "They are going to come, regardless of what's going on here."
-- David J. Criblez
THE SCENE It's one thing to hear that the 2.2-mile boardwalk was taken down by superstorm Sandy -- but seeing it is a different thing. Exposed stone footings loom overhead and as far as the eye can see. "It is just devastating," says resident Holly Clinton, 50, who used to run on the boardwalk daily. "I know things will come back, but I wish they would go quicker."
Paul Gillespie, chief of lifeguards for Long Beach, echoes her sentiments. "It is going to be the year of adjustments," he says.
On a brighter note, the beachside playground at Magnolia Boulevard has been completely redone. The beach area between the footings and the shoreline has been extended by about 20 yards in some spots. And a seemingly endless stretch of volleyball nets is up. League play started this week.
THE MOOD Part hopeful, part concerned -- but everybody is craving normalcy. Not having a boardwalk is bound to affect nearby shops and restaurants, but "I do think people will still want to go to the beach," says Mike Flammer, co-owner of Maritime Surf on Park Avenue.
WHAT TO EXPECT For the first time, food trucks are being allowed near the beach. Four to six local trucks will take up permanent residence at "The Shoregasboard," as it is being known, along Riverside Boulevard from Broadway to the beach.
As for the sand -- the city's normal usage fees apply -- $12 daily with season pass options for residents and nonresidents.
-- Sylvia E. King-Cohen
THE SCENE The sound of buzz saws and hammers filled the air in Ocean Beach last week, the final fixes to a seaside village coming back from the October storm. Some homes are still undergoing major renovations (the water came up at least 4 feet on the bay side). But in town, most of the hard work is done. Restaurants were putting up last-minute decor, and clothing stores were arranging displays.
Harvey Levine, owner of both Seasons Bed and Breakfast and Blue Water Hotel, said all but one room is rented for this weekend. "The phone is ringing off the hook," he said.
Rentals are up this season, and inventory is scarce, according to real estate broker Carin Roth. "We don't want people to be afraid to come out here," said Jon Randazzo, owner of several Ocean Beach restaurants.
THE MOOD Homeowners, workers and business owners said they're confident it will be a good summer. Eating lunch on the bay side near the marina, Bay Shore resident Katie Schulz, 18, said she was surprised construction was still going on -- but also was pleased about how well the town has come back.
WHAT TO EXPECT When the ferry pulls up, visitors may be surprised to see the ferry terminal building and police station gone, but otherwise the village looks pretty normal.
Matthews Seafood House has a new outdoor deck and all-new flooring. At CJ's, a favorite of the locals for a beer and a game of darts, the worn bar was refinished and the room was updated with a modern yellow decor. Employees were stocking juices at Rachel's Bakery, well known to regulars for its scrumptious cookies. All say they will be open this weekend and expect the usual crowds.
Beaches have been replenished but look a bit odd without the dunes. Only a few beach entrances are without stairs.
-- Stacey Altherr
THE SCENE Town of Oyster Bay residents cherish their beach, which has calmer waters of Zach's Bay on one side and the ocean on the other. "We are surrounded by water," said Town Supervisor John Venditto. "In the good weather, it's a blessing, and in the bad weather, it becomes a curse."
The storm-wrecked dunes have been rebuilt. The flooded bathrooms and damaged concession areas have been restored with new plumbing and electrical wiring.
THE MOOD Last weekend, Laurie Casta, 42, of Bethpage brought her kids, Jason, 7, and Sara, 4, to buy a seasonal beach pass. "It looks pretty much the same from last year," she said. "They'll still get the big crowds here."
Keith Langan, who manages bayside restaurants The Seafood Shack and the Salsa Shack, was amazed by the cleanup. "If you saw the destruction of this restaurant area after the hurricane, you would have never thought we'd be open again," he said.
WHAT TO EXPECT The walls leading up to the main pavilion have been rebuilt with stone, and the decking was replaced with more durable ipe wood. Temporary Porta Potties will be in place -- just in case the new septic system is not fully operational.
Additionally, a new burger shack will open later this year, complete with a dining deck overlooking the spray park.
-- David J. Criblez