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The Beaches of New York City Parks

Opening day at South Beach in Staten Island. Photo: Malcolm Pinckney, Parks

New York City can be a hot place in the summer, but its 14 miles of cool public beaches, situated on the city's 578–mile coastline, are free, open to all, and just a bus or subway ride away. They can be found in every borough except river-bound Manhattan, and offer every flavor from Coney Island, the quintessential waterfront amusement park, to Orchard Beach the “Bronx Riviera.”

Until the 20th century, a New York City beach experience meant visiting one of several commercial enterprises either amusement parks or resorts along the Atlantic Ocean. The 1890s to World War I were the heyday of amusement parks such as George Tilyou's at Coney Island or the Casino at Midland Beach.

By the 1930s, as the local amusement park industry declined and the City began to reclaim its waterfront, City-owned beaches became the norm. The Parks Department took over management of several municipal beaches, including Coney Island, in 1938. This era saw a massive investment in beach properties. Coney Island reverted to City control and received improvements in the 1930s, and at Orchard Beach, the City went as far as creating a brand new sandy beach to better serve Bronx households.

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