So, it might be an unmitigated disaster outside today (pro tip: wearing loafers is actually a terrible idea, don't do it), but soon! It will be beach season. Instead of wet, rapidly-molding socks encasing your feet, it will be sand, and mystery ocean trash!
Sadly, it won't be the mystery ocean trash of Fort Tilden, which is still too damaged by Hurricane Sandy to be open to the public this summer, but you know what other beloved beach will be open? The Rockaways. The Queens beach may have taken a battering during the storm, but in a few short weeks, it'll be open for business. Not without a few big changes, though. As we willfully ignore our surroundings and plan for a time of Summer Fridays and day-drinking, best to start planning our strategies now.
Even with the beach officially open, a lot of may be pretty unrecognizable. After months of ongoing work, much of the boardwalk itself is still gone, with only support beams left in its place. This may make actually getting onto the beach a little tricky, but the Parks Department is wisely focusing its attentions on creating "boardwalk islands" around the main hubs at Beach 86th and Beach 95th, which it still hopes will be back to normal (and serviceable for businesses) by the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately, the tracks between Howard Beach/JFK and Far Rocakways are still undergoing repairs, though MTA officials are hoping to restore regular service at some point during June. In the meantime, the free H Shuttle will be running between 4am and midnight on weekends, with slightly more restricted weekday hours.
As they did last summer, the Rockabus will be making trips to the Rockaways every hour between 10 am and 7 pm on Saturday and Sunday, with possible expansions, starting Memorial Day weekend. "We are currently looking to go to Jacob Riis Park instead of Fort Tilden," co-founder Sam Morrill told Crain's, adding, "We're also planning to expand to a few other neighborhoods."
Alexis Van Lines owner Leroy Morrison told us his service (which picks up at Bedford and North 7th) will also be starting back up sometime in June (details forthcoming on their Facebook page), this year with additional vans and more frequent pickups. Rides cost $15 and $12 round trip, respectively.
For now, it looks like things will take a while to get back to normal, but will hopefully be in full swing by around July. "It depends who you ask," said Rockaway Taco co-owner Andrew Field of the planned boardwalk repairs at Beach 86th and 95th, where almost all major food vendors are located. "One day the construction workers will be optimistic, another not so. They keep telling me that we're going to get the keys on Memorial Day, but even then, we won't be able to open."
Caracas owner Maribel Araujo painted a similar picture, telling The Local that after their planned Memorial Day opening, the company will have to sell beer and water for a few weeks before getting back to their usual operations. Araujo and Field are both optimistic ("I think it's going to be amazing in every way," Araujo said), though, and noted that other vendors including Rippers, Motorboat, and the Big Banana will be returning as well, even if it's a bit belatedly.
We may even end up with more beach food options. According to a report back in March, the Parks Department has been quietly working to bring new food trucks to Jacob Riis park for the summer, issuing a request for proposals long before Sandy even hit. “In a way it’s an experiment,” an official told the Daily News. “It’s a one-year agreement with a three-year renewal. We want to get business people to try it out and bring in their ideas.”
Memorial Day may be, like, two weeks away, but it feels like so much longer. That's just relativity. Anyway, if you want to do something between now and then to psych yourself up (and do something helpful for a place we all love), the Rockabus team has been throwing itself into relief efforts for months now, running free buses of volunteers out to damaged beaches. This Saturday, they'll be picking up in Williamsburg and taking volunteers out to Fort Tilden. Let's just do whatever we can to make this season a good one, alright?
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.