Orchard Beach, ‘The Bronx Riviera,’ open for summer fun

Steel drummer Mustafa Alexander entertains dignitaries and crowd at Orchard Beach Wednesday, May 21, as officials kicked off opening season on Saturday, May 24.
Photo by Alexander Belisle

Calling all swimmers, sunbathers and beach bums: “The Riviera of the Bronx,” as Orchard Beach has been called, is open for the summer season.

New York City Department of Parks and Recreation hosted a beach season kick-off Wednesday, May 21, prior to the beach’s official opening Saturday, May 24.

Orchard Beach will be open 7 days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends, with swimming hours from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

At the kick-off, newly appointed Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Bronx Borough Commissioner Hector Aponte, and Community Board 10 District Manager Kenneth Kearns welcomed seniors from the Owen Dolen, St. James, St. Mary’s and Williamsbridge Oval recreation centers to the beach.

Several long-time Bronx beachgoers in attendance said they feel the beach has improved in recent years.

“It’s definitely gotten cleaner,” said Maria Montero. “From the water to the bathrooms.”

Louis Indiziglio said the beach has changed for the better in the past few decades. At one time, Orchard Beach was thought of as dirty and crime-ridden, he said, but not any more.

“It’s not what we think of from 20 or 30 years ago,” he said.

Pelham Bay Park Administrator Marianne Anderson said that part of the reason for the improved appearance of the beach was the sand replenishment in 2011, which restored the beach to its original 1930s form.

“It looks brighter and fuller,” she said about the beach.

And if people have concerns about the cleanliness of the water, she said, they shouldn’t.

“This is the Long Island Sound, it’s muddy water,” she said. “It’s definitely clean.”

Water at the beach is tested by the Department of Health continuously throughout the summer, she added.

Anderson herself is a long-time Orchard Beach habitue, with lots of childhood memories from the place.

What sets the beach apart, she said, are the numerous amenities besides the sand and water. They include picnic areas, a playground with sprinklers, various sports courts, nearby trails and a nature center.

“The thing that makes Orchard Beach so special is there’s a little bit of everything next to the beach,” said Anderson.

Another unique element at Orchard Beach are the two beach wheelchairs recently acquired by the Friends of Pelham Bay Park, which makes the beach handicap-accessible.

Commissioner Silver said the wheelchairs are the first of their kind to be available for public use at a New York City beach.

“It allows people of all abilities to enjoy this beautiful space.”

Reach Reporter Jaime Williams at (718) 742–3383. E-mail her at jwilliams@cnglocal.com.

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