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Yesterday, the Parks Department finally released its plans for the development and the demolition of Cedar Grove Beach Club, the beach bungalow community on Staten Island that we wrote about for last week’s cover story.
The city is taking back the beach — which is public land — from 41 families that had used the area as a summer resort for a century, leasing the bungalows for the last 50 years after the land under them was seized for a never-built parkway. Local politicians had rallied to the aid of the families being kicked out, pointing specifically to the Parks Department’s silence on what it actually planned to do with the land it was taking back.
Finally, they’ve released that information.
The Parks Department says the area will be transformed into a fully functioning swimming beach by June 2011, and even shows a digitized image of some sexy-looking beach bathers to prove it. The beach, Parks says, is part of a larger plan to create 10.6 miles of continuous, open public beach from the Verrazano Bridge all the way to the tip of Great Kills Park, which is just past Cedar Grove. (At some point, if Parks is serious about the waterfront plan, the agency will have to clean up New Dorp Beach, a disaster of a beach that was also condemned at the same time as Cedar Grove and is adjacent to it.) Cedar Grove is surrounded by wetlands and marshlands, which will be preserved and link up to Great Kills Park. Included in the plan is another cool feature: a greenway bike path that runs through the Parks marshlands and along the water. If Parks makes good on its commitments, one day the south shore of Staten Island could be a choice destination for bike riders coming from as far as South Brooklyn.
The plans show that the agency intends to leave the basic structure of the grounds — which the residents have kept in such good condition over the years — intact. Parks won’t be removing the existing trees — the huge pines and oaks that dot the grounds of the beach club and contribute to its charm. Looking at the images, one can see that most of the bungalows will be destroyed, and in their place will be restoration of natural vegetation, like beach grass, Parks says. The ones that will be preserved will be converted into administrative uses, and we hope they maintain the bungalow facades because they add a lot of character to the place.
Speaking of character, Parks announces that it will be opposing all efforts (namely, that of local public officials, historians, and the members of the beach club) to give the beach club a designation on the national registry.
How are they going to pay for all this loveliness? As we reported, the Parks Department says it is going to use $1.8 million collected from fees from the residents. Phase III, which appears to include the greenway construction as well as “picnic grounds” and “pedestrian pathways,” Parks admits, is still “unfunded.”