Thursday, August 25, 2011

Orchard Beach, the Bronx Riviera, named #2 in the City

A report on city beaches released last week has gotten quite a bit of attention, but no one has really discussed Orchard Beach (no one talks about second place). But from where Orchard Beach's shoreline used to be, to where it is now (the best in the city), it just shows what the parks department can do when it really puts everything else on the back burner and focuses on something (yes, that was a very backhanded compliment. Just pick up the Riverdale Review to see the saga of Memorial Grove.)

Anyways, for your consideration, here is a story from this week's Bronx Press.

By Brendan McHugh
Orchard Beach during the July 4 celebration.
The titanic improvements to Orchard Beach’s shoreline earlier this year vaulted the Bronx Riviera to the second best beach in the city, a new report claims.

A 27-page report, completed by the century-old organization New Yorkers for Parks (NY4P), shows sweeping improvements for all of the city’s municipal beaches. The report measured the quality of shoreline, drinking fountains, bathrooms and pathways.

“The news is overwhelmingly good,” the report said. “The city’s beaches have shown extraordinary progress since the first Report Card on Beaches in 2007.”

In 2007 and 2009, Orchard Beach received grades of “Challenged.” But in 2011, mainly due to vast improvements to the shoreline, received the second best grade overall, including a perfect 100/100 on the quality of the shoreline and a 98/100 on the pathways. 

“While every feature showed improvement, shorelines improved most dramatically, rising from a grade of F in 2009 to a perfect score of 100 in 2011,” the report said. 

Earlier this year, the Army Corps of Engineers and the city’s parks department put $13 million dollars into the beach, re-grading the land with 268,000 cubic yards of new white sand. As part of the Orchard Beach Shoreline Protection Project, the Bronx Riviera nearly doubled in size during the five-month project.

Prior to the reconstruction, the 1.1-mile-long shoreline was so bad that beachgoers had to take a literal step down to enter the water.

Jump below for the rest of the story.

It wasn’t all perfect for Orchard Beach in the new report, which can be found at the NY4P website. “A number of [b]athrooms lacked hand towels and hand dryers and had stall doors that could not be locked,” the report said.

“Drinking fountains at Orchard Beach improved from the 2007 and 2009 inspections, but they remain the feature that poses the biggest maintenance challenge at the site.”

The report went on to say the fountains are plagued by excessive sand, mud or standing water, making them “unacceptable” at times. Also, algae were present on some of the fountains.
Still, Orchard Beach received an 84 percent for drinking fountains—a 24-point improvement from the 2009 score. Bathrooms received a 94 percent in 2011. 

In 2007 and 2009, beach scores ranged from 0 to 77 percent. In 2011, only one beach scored a Challenged rating (below 70 percent), and that was Wolfe’s Pond Beach in Staten Island. Every other beach scored at least an 85 percent this year. 

The city opened an eighth beach, Cedar Grove on Staten Island, in 2011 but it was not included in the survey, which was taken during the 2010 beach season. Earlier this year, NY4P did spot checks to confirm the findings, but reevaluated the Orchard Beach shoreline completely after the drastic overhaul. Issues like water quality and sewage, which closed four beaches for a time in late July after a fire at a Harlem sewage plant, were not addressed.

Four workers conducted the survey, which did not include beaches managed by the federal government. They divided beaches into 50-foot-wide sections, randomly choosing 10 percent of those to inspect. They checked every single bathroom and drinking fountain, regardless of if it fell within the random area or not.

Orchard Beach is open until the end of Labor Day weekend. The beach will remain open with lifeguards on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week.

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