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The Post-Sandy Beachcomber’s Handbook

Come on in! The water’s great.


It’s been seven months since Sandy churned angrily across the East Coast, and large swaths of shoreline are still reeling. Houses have yet to be rebuilt; boardwalks are under construction; and many beachside businesses remain shuttered. But for the most part, local and state governments scrambled like mad to ensure that the region’s beaches would reopen—in proper sunbathing and splashing-around condition—by Memorial Day. Some even got upgrades: There’s now a train-to-sand trolley shuttling visitors directly to Long Beach, a state-of-the-art boardwalk being installed in Spring Lake, New Jersey, and a brand-new thrill-a-minute amusement park in Coney Island. What follows is a sampling of the most devastated shorefront communities and where they stand today, plus tips for coping in a Tilden-free world.

New York City

Rockaways Report
With no Fort Tilden and the addition of alienlike toilet pods, the peninsula looks a bit different this summer.

Illustrations by Mark Nerys  

Rockaway Beach Proper
This surfers’ paradise caught the brunt of Sandy’s furor. Comfort stations were hammered to nothing and 1.5 million cubic yards of sand was displaced; the Army Corps of Engineers is working to replace it.

What to Eat
Many of the most popular Rockaway food stands are still in “wait and see” mode, with some setting their sights on the Fourth of July. Here’s where select vendors stand for now:
Rockaway Taco: Reopened May 3.
Rippers: Reopened May 25.
The Commodore East: Not reopening. Check back in 2014.
Lobster Joint: The building was destroyed, but owner Tommy Chabrowski hopes to rebuild and reopen next year.
Motorboat and the Big Banana: Owner Jean Adamson is angling for a July 4 return. Till then, she’ll sell frozen bananas at Smorgasburg (more here).
Low Tide Bar: Aiming to reopen by July 4 weekend.
Connolly’s: Reopened May 24.
Caracas Arepa Bar: Trying for a mid-June return.

Those Futuristic-Looking Bathroom Pods
In order to get the beaches ready for the public by Memorial Day, the city spent $105 million on a remodel that included new bathroom pods and lifeguard stations, to be distributed among fifteen beaches. The largest of the elevated pods are 15-by-60 feet, made of steel, weigh 50 tons, and cost about $2 million. The city couldn’t risk construction-related weather delays, given the race against time, so it had the pods prefabbed in a Pennsylvania factory.

Island Hopping
The city has installed temporary concrete “islands” with steps, ramps, seating areas, and lighting at four damaged boardwalk junctures: Beach 86th, 97th, 106th, and 116th Streets. They’ll remain in place while the boardwalk undergoes a full reconstruction.

Getting There
So long, H shuttle, we hardly knew you. Starting May 30, full A train service will be restored to the Rockaways.

So What’s the Next Fort Tilden?
To the disappointment of many a North Brooklynite, Fort Tilden’s beach was badly eroded and its dunes destroyed, exposing an old seawall and jagged debris. It remains closed indefinitely to protect the land (and prevent a mass tetanus outbreak). Here, the tastemakers who made the old Fort Tilden the new Rockaway Beach reveal where they’ll be headed this summer.

Celia Ellenberg, beauty editor
“I’ve got a feeling Montauk might be a little more crowded this year. Personally, though, I’ll be decamping to Margate, just outside Atlantic City. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a hoagie and some water ice delivered to your beach chair.”

Caitlin Mociun, jewelry designer
“I decided to rent a lake house upstate this summer in Copake. If it gets really hot and I’m desperate during the week, maybe I’ll go to the public swimming pools—like Commodore Barry Park in Fort Greene.”

Amanda Carter, fashion publicist
“There’s a dope beach, Greenwich Point Park, in Old Greenwich, Connecticut—it’s really cute, but you have to get a permit to go. Sandy Hook, New Jersey, is also amusing.”

Chris Keating, Yeasayer front man
“I’m tired of the sand. I’m going somewhere that has a lake. Forty minutes away on the train has some of the most beautiful, serene nature and swimming holes.”

Remember the Boy Next Door
Jacob Riis: now taking Tilden refugees.

The National Park Service–run beach reopened for swimming over Memorial Day—though, fair warning, parking is tight. Most of the lot is still filled with debris after doubling as a temporary transfer station for the city. The Rockabus (, now rerouted to Jacob Riis from Fort Tilden, is the better option, and its new fleet of school buses are kitted out with air-conditioning, an improved sound system, and D.J.-curated playlists.

The Great Coney Comeback
Coney Island’s amusement parks, boardwalk concessions, and beach took on about five feet of water during the storm, pummeling icons like Nathan’s Famous and causing electrical damage to Luna Park and the Cyclone. Hot tubs, Jet-Skis, and other debris washed onto the beach, and bathrooms were wrecked. And yet—triumph! The beach reopened Memorial Day weekend, with just a few kinks: The bathrooms are still being replaced, and the city is working on the boardwalk between West 24th and West 27th Streets. Nathan’s reopened, and all of Luna’s rides were power-washed or replaced. The New York Aquarium, which suffered $65 million in damage, partially reopened May 25 with a restored Glover’s Reef and remodeled Aqua Theater (but, sadly, no Mitik the orphan walrus). Also, new this summer: Big Mark’s Action Park on Stillwell Avenue, an adrenaline junkie’s paradise complete with a rock-climbing wall, a skydiving simulator, hot-air balloon rides, and a mechanical bull.

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