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.
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.
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.