How about a beer garden or a seasonal holiday village at a year-round operated Orchard Beach? These ideas, as well as others, may be included in the next renovation of the Bronx Riviera.
After announcing a $60 million revamp of the Bronx funspot, NYC Parks Department held a listening session at Lehman High School to get community feedback on how to better the summertime oasis on Tuesday, December 4.
In what Bronx Parks Commissioner Iris Rodriguez-Rosa called the first community ‘say so’ regarding Orchard beach since 1936, the plan for renovation was announced that would be completed in two phases over the next four years: the rehabilitation of the vacant, city landmarked pavilion as well as the repurposing of beach’s south yard.
Similar to the Jones Beach pavilion on Long Island, when Robert Moses designed the original structure in 1937, it had been used as both a bathhouse and cafeteria space. Most current day beachgoers would like to see the former use brought back.
Even Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. frustratingly contrasted Orchard Beach to Brooklyn’s Coney Island in regards to the quality of entertainment and amenities offered.
While Parks had proposed many uses for the Bronx landmark, fine dining, an art exhibition and a concert hall were among the most popular among those at the meeting.
A suggestion from the audience recommended giving Orchard Beach more activities to do during the off-season to make the area a year-round destination, rather than a seasonal one.
For the beach’s south yard, which is currently off limits to the public, some suggested bringing in food trucks, a beer garden or a seasonal holiday village with a skating rink, additional fireworks shows, along with a slew of other creative uses.
Increased cleanliness and improved transportation services were high on the list of ‘wants’.
The Parks’ new policy that removed the litterbins that once dotted the beach’s sand during the beach season was not popular with many Bronxites. Instead they demanded more garbage cans and more frequent pickups.
Community Board 10 member Bob Bieder requested that Parks allocate a good portion of the beach budget to additional maintenance funding.
“If you’re going to expand use and service it’s important that clean up is included in that,” he said.
Also, if Orchard Beach were to become a year-round destination, the seasonal Bx12 Orchard Beach bus would need to have its service extended past September, an attendee noted.
Nilka Martell, president of the Friends of Pelham Bay Park hopes that a project like this would encourage the city to expand its ferry service into the east Bronx. She also suggested incorporating environmental education and community space into the renovation’s plan.
While she supported the creation of a holiday village, Martell explained why a skating rink wouldn’t fair well at Orchard Beach.
“The seasonal rink at Van Courtlandt Park only lasted two years because there wasn’t a good water source to maintain the ice. That would probably happen here as well,” she said.
In the meantime, Parks along with Manhattan-based Marvel Architects, will spend the next two years scoping out the project and evaluating the beachgoers’ recommendations. After that they expect to get the shovels in the ground.