Friday, August 31, 2012
Sad state of Riis Bathhouse
From the NY Times:
With its octagonal brick towers rising above the beach, the sprawling bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways has, since opening in 1932, served as a monument to Art Deco design, grand public works and populist fun. Lately, however, it has become a symbol of something else: public frustration.
Renovation work began in the 1990s on the bathhouse, which is part of the federal Gateway National Recreation Area. Nearly $20 million was spent on asbestos removal, electrical upgrades, window replacements, new elevators and facade work. Politicians predicted that the bathhouse would be a fitting centerpiece of Jacob Riis Park, which is nicknamed the People’s Beach, while beachgoers envisioned cafes and souvenir shops, hot showers and community space.
But the work was never finished, and today the 40,000-square-foot bathhouse appears all but abandoned. Its large oceanfront bays are boarded up with plywood; its giant courtyard houses piles of sand, weeds and several derelict lifeguard stands, two of them toppled over.
Officials of Gateway, which is part of the National Park Service, say that the bathhouse suffered a one-two punch. First, the money meant for the restoration did not go as far as they had planned. The bathhouse complex actually comprises four buildings; while the entry pavilion on the inland side is finished, the beach pavilion still needs major work. Then came Tropical Storm Irene, which smashed a series of large doors protecting the interior — the ones now covered in plywood — and dumped four feet of sand on the ground floor.