Rockaway Beach’s Jacob Riis Bathhouse to get $50M makeover


This dilapidated Art Deco jewel — located right at a popular Queens beach getaway — is getting a multimillion-dollar restoration and a new life as a vendor and event space.  

When it was built in 1932, the Jacob Riis Bathhouse was a central hub for Rockaway Beach visitors, but for the past 50 years it’s been sorely underutilized. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage to the pavilion, knocking over one of its courtyard walls and destroying its window coverings and doors. A $4 million renovation in 2018 successfully transformed the 50,000-square-foot courtyard into an extension of the Riis Park Beach Bazaar with food and drink offerings galore, but now the Gateway National Recreation Area has even bigger plans for the beachfront centerpiece. 

Architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle and CBSK Developers have been tapped to start work on the new $50 million project this fall, with a phased opening planned to begin next year. Once complete, the refurbished landmark will boast a rooftop restaurant, ground floor eateries, a “casual beachfront bar,” retailers selling “beach supplies like sunblock and towels,” lounging areas and a pool in the courtyard, “multiple event spaces,” 28 hotel rooms and a catering hall. The Byzantine, Moorish and Moderne-influenced facade will be restored to “its original glory,” according to a press release. 

jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
The bathhouse in 1938.
NYC Parks
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
The current view from the roof.
Sylvester Zawadzki
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
Some of the forthcoming offerings mirror what beachgoers would’ve found at the bathhouse 80 years ago.
NYC Parks
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
The 90-year-old bathhouse as it appears today.
Sylvester Zawadzki
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
The restoration aims to transform the bathhouse into the hub it once was.
NYC Parks
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
The renovated bathhouse is set to begin a phased reopening in 2023.
Sylvester Zawadzki
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
An aerial view of the beach and bathhouse in 1937.
NYC Parks
jacob riis park bathhouse renovation 2022
The structure maintained extensive damage during Hurricane Sandy.
Sylvester Zawadzki

The version of the bathhouse that beachgoers knew in the early 20th century had some overlap in amenities: That early incarnation of the space also featured two restaurants, a cafeteria and concession stands.

“This project to revitalize and rejuvenate the Jacob Riis Bathhouse represents a giant step forward for the Rockaway Peninsula as it continues to recover from the battering it received from Hurricane Sandy a decade ago,” said Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr.

As part of a flood-proofing plan, the project will implement Aquafence technology and a Zero Waste plan as part of construction.  

Meanwhile, the crumbling Neponsit Beach Hospital some 1,000 feet to the east appears slated for the wrecking ball in the near future. It’s a controversial fate as that broken behemoth has become something of a shield for the queer sunbathing community, which has made the sands before it their summer haven — and especially so over the past several summers.



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