Save the Orchard and Jones Beaches

It’s hard to miss the irony of the fact that two Robert Moses gems are now in various states of disrepair themselves. Two relics from the master builder, the man often portrayed as destroying the urban landscape, now face a destruction of their own. Two creations from his empire are starting to look dangerously close to ruins themselves.

These pieces are treasures to the New York City area and should not be allowed to go so terribly astray from what they once were. When Jones Beach opened 1929 it offered the first real chance for the population of a city to go to the beach and escape the heat of the city. It was revolutionary in its approach to what a park could do. Orchard Beach completed in 1936 was just as beautiful in its own right, and within New York City itself.

Orchard Beach, south locker entrance today

Now, more than 70 years after they were built, today’s New York Times paints a picture in The Bronx of a beach that barely resembles the one built in 1938. I was there recently and its not hard to see the signs of a lost past. The estimated cost of full restoration is $50 Million, and the ghosts of outmoded design a formal restaurant; and laundry for rental towels are places remain closed up for good. The Times piece states than a circle for food trucks, some open-air showers and a few bathrooms would suffice. The $50 million does not seem likely to come.

While in not nearly as bad shape as Orchard Beach, Jones Beach is having troubles of its own, Alexandra Parsons Wolfe, Director of Preservation Services at Society for Long Island Antiquities understates the urgency in her report when she says in  “better care” needs to be paid to Jones Beach’s defining features. A look at the pitch and putt area below shows that it doesn’t seem to be getting any care at all. Her report is 50 pages long and goes on to show troubling page after page.

Jones Beach Pitch and Putt Then and Now

Historians have given much attention in recent years with respect to the legacy of Robert Moses, books have been written arguments made, cases presented. Well here are are two real pieces of Robert Moses legacy which need a restoration in a much more physical sense. Improvements would make our visits to these beaches a much more positive experience. These are places many of us visited hundreds of times in our youth, and we have great memories of those visits, the next generation should be allowed to have its share of the same.

Jones Beach Preservation Society

City Island Historical Society – An illustrated talk by Deborah Wye is scheduled here on Sunday September 25 at 2:00 PM.

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