Franklin D. Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach
South Beach is part of one of New York City’s four beachfront areas. Its orange-colored sands, and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean have long served as a refuge from the congestion and confinement of New York City.
Originally part of a small Dutch community in the mid-1600s, the coastal neighborhoods of Middle and South Beach had changed little until the l880s. At the end of the 19th century, investors recognized the potential of the teeming beaches filled with New Yorkers trying to escape the city’s summer heat. With the addition of hotels, bathing pavilions, theaters, beer gardens, carousels and Ferris wheels, the beachfront property transformed almost overnight.
On June 30, 1906 the Happyland Amusement Park opened its boardwalk doors. Taking full advantage of the summer closings of most Broadway theaters, Happyland’s amusements, stage productions, and vaudeville shows attracted thirty-thousand visitors on opening day. The amusement park continued to draw summer crowds for many years with attractions like the Japanese Tea Gardens, the Carnival of Venice, and the shooting gallery. Though the boardwalk resort thrived throughout the 1910s and 20s, fires, water pollution, and The Great Depression (1929-1939) took their toll on the beachfront resort area and the crowds eventually disappeared.
In 1935 the beachfront property was vested to the City and underwent renovations as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s (1882-1945) Works Progress Administration (WPA). Providing jobs for Depression era workers, the WPA also revived the community of Midland Beach. By removing the deteriorating music halls, carousels, and shooting galleries, the project made way for the present two and a half-mile long boardwalk. In 1939 it was dedicated to the former New York governor and president and has since continued to undergo periodic renovations and neighborhood improvements.
The site, at the northernmost segment of Staten Island’s Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk and Beach between Fort Wadsworth and Sea View, now supports baseball fields, handball and shuffleboard courts, and playgrounds colorfully adorned with dolphins and carnival-faces that recall South Beach’s long gone amusement parks. Visitors also enjoy boccie courts, checker tables, a skateboard park, a roller hockey rink and a long pier for year-round fishing.
In addition to offering numerous recreational activities, South Beach also delights marine animal lovers with the Fountain of the Dolphins sculpture at the boardwalk area. Sculpted by Steven Dickey and donated by the Staten Island Borough President’s Office in 1998, the fountain contains six bronze dolphin figures fastened to footings by posts and surrounded by wave-shaped rails. These posts contain fiber-optic cables and water jets that, when illuminated, emit green, blue and white lights.
In 1995 Parks installed a new roller hockey rink funded by a $15,000 City Parks Foundation grant and in 1996, Saturn of Staten Island funded nearby Kid’s Kingdom Playground. Though South Beach has changed over the years, it remains an active center of the community and a beautiful scenic resort.
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