Orchard Beach Pavilion allocated $10 million for renovation

Borough President Diaz has committed $10 million from his capital budget to fund a mulit-phase $40 million restoration project for the landmarked Orchard Beach Pavilion.
Photo by Silvio Pacifico

A beloved Orchard Beach landmark may get the chance to relive its glory days.

During the State of the Borough Address, Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. announced he will allocate $10 million from his capital budget to fund the restoration of the memorable Orchard Beach Pavilion.

According to James Rausse, AICP, director of capital programs for the borough president’s office, this marks the first phase of a $40 million multi-phase project slated for the ‘Bronx Riviera’.

Rausse explained the objectives are to redesign the pavilion within its landmark parameters while better fortifying it against hurricanes, providing additional direct access to the beach and establishing more food concessions and tourist shops at the pavilion.

The project is dependent on receiving $10 million from the borough president, NYS senate and assembly members and NYC Parks.

Once fully funded, Rausse said early estimates have construction starting by at least 2018.

“NYC Parks appreciates Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s enthusiasm and eagerness to restore Orchard Beach Pavilion,” said Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa. “We understand the importance of this project and look forward to continuing the dialogue with our elected partners and community stakeholders.”

Deborah Wye, Friends of Pelham Bay Park communications coordinator and Museum of Modern Art curator emerita said. “It was Robert Moses who suggested that the pavilion have a colonnade that responds to the verticality of the trees in Pelham Bay Park and its curving wings echo the crescent shoreline of the beach.”

“The NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission has called Orchard Beach ‘among the most remarkable public recreational facilities ever built in the United States’,” said Judge Lizbeth Gonzalez, FPBP president.

According to Lloyd Ultan, Bronx borough historian, Orchard Beach was artificially created in 1936 under the leadership of NYC Parks Commissioner Robert Moses by using imported brown and white sand from the Rockaways, Sandy Hook and Northport to close the inlet of LeRoy Bay.

As part of this $8 million Works Progress Administration project, the landmarked 50-foot wide pavilion was constructed by NYC Parks with Aymar Embury II serving as an architectural consultant on the project.

More than 18,000 people attended Orchard Beach’s opening day on July 25, 1936, however the pavilion itself would not be completed until the following year.

In its heyday, Ultan explained the Art Deco designed building was utilized as two separate gender specific public bathhouses.

This historic pavilion also included a 500-seat formal dining room, a laundry service for rental towels and bathing suits, changing rooms and indoor showers.

However, as the city faced a fiscal crisis in the mid-1970s, NYC Parks did not have enough money to fund the pavilion’s upkeep, Ultan said.

A $4.3 million project completed in 1997 under Mayor Giuliani and Borough President Fernando Ferrer restored the upper loggia and main pavilion and added a new tent structure and performance stage at the pavilion’s lower section.

In 2006, Orchard Beach Pavilion was officially designated as a NYC Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

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