Brighton Beach: Bouncing Back after Hurricane Sandy
May 1, 2013

Brighton Beach: Bouncing Back after Hurricane Sandy

As soon as there’s a touch of warmth in the air, the kids start asking when we’ll be able to go to the beach. So this past Saturday we took advantage of the nice weather and hopped the D train to the Q train to see how our beloved Brighton Beach was doing was doing after Hurricane Sandy.

All in all, we were relieved! We walked the very wide, 2.5-mile-long boardwalk from Brighton Beach at the eastern-most end, past the still-shuttered New York Aquarium, to Coney Island on the western edge. The boardwalk itself survived Hurricane Sandy in good form but sand was piled high around the benches that line the beach side of the boardwalk, and many big drifts of sand still remain across the promenade.

Like many children we observed, Halina, age 7, loved these ad-hoc sandboxes. We hadn’t brought any beach toys but she made do by plowing the sand with her hands and rolling around in it to fully absorb its warmth. Many people were out walking the boards, and surf anglers dotted the water’s edge. It was wonderful to see so much activity when other beaches are still struggling.

We recently visited Point Pleasant, NJ, another of our favorite beaches that we wrote about in October, just prior to Hurricane Sandy.  The damage to the boardwalk and much of the shoreline heading south through Mantoloking was still severe, bordering on apocalyptic in some places. A few restaurants and businesses on surviving (or repaired) sections of the boardwalk were open, including the aquarium, but boardwalk pedestrians and beach wanderers were few and far between. The pre-season crowds you typically see by that time of year still hadn’t returned.

Rebuilding Beach Facilities

Though it fared comparatively well, Brighton Beach did not escape totally unharmed, however. Several of the large restroom buildings and shower facilities were damaged and have been permanently closed. Three new restroom buildings are going up along the boardwalk—at New Brighton Street, Brighton 2nd Street, and at West 2nd Street—so big stretches of the beach are currently cordoned off with chain-link fencing. Construction work has been underway practically around the clock, with the goal of having the new facilities open in time for Memorial Day, when beaches open for the season.

The New York Aquarium, which sustained serious damage throughout its campus, is also slated to open partially by Memorial Day.

Unrelated (we believe) to Hurricane Sandy, Surf Avenue—which runs inland along the beach route—is also undergoing a renaissance. Construction was underway at many of the charming, if time-worn, buildings up and down the avenue. It is worth walking this route too, taking mental notes of area because it is destined to change dramatically over the coming years.

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Fortunately, Deno’s famed and fabled Wonder Wheel and all the other legendary rides at Coney Island were up and running full swing. Owing to massive summertime crowds, we’d never ventured close to that part of the boardwalk but now is the perfect time to go, before the crowds set in.

From the vantage of the Wonder Wheel, the views out to Sandy Hook, NJ, in the south, and Manhattan to the north are amazing. Truly, where else in the world can you take in both vistas simultaneously?  Luna Park has obviously received extensive renovations as many of the rides are pristine and new. The famous Cyclone roller coaster was also zooming around its hairpin turns, steep inclines, and deep plunges—but we didn’t venture on it. Riley was completely disinterested and while Halina was dying to go, at 4 feet she was too short to ride even with an adult. (Riders need to be 54 inches.)

Logistics

The D, F, N and Q trains all terminate at the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue stop, which might be one of the most beautiful stations in New York City. It also has restrooms, which is hardly standard throughout the system. We got off the Q at Brighton Beach to begin our walk there.

Restrooms are open (and new) at Luna Park, Coney Island, and at Asser Levy Park along Surf Avenue at West 5th Street.

Food and beverage options abound, from the trio of Russian restaurants at Brighton Beach to Nathan’s Famous hotdogs sold at concessions throughout the area.

What is your Brighton Beach memoir? 

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