“I want a beach in Manhattan soooo badly,” a man confides to the camera. He leans forward, hands in his pockets. A cheery tune plunks along in the background.
“Like, this much,” the woman next to him adds, stretching her arms as wide as they go.
One by one, a parade of eager, hopeful beach bums flashes across the screen, all voicing their enthusiastic agreement: The city’s largest borough needs a beach. STAT.
Clearly, these cheerful, wide-eyed New Yorkers want it. But how close are they to getting it?
Maybe only two years, if all goes according to plan. The video is a fundraising spot for a project called – appropriately enough – CityBeach NYC, a proposal to repurpose an old barge into a floating beach along the Hudson River. The barge would also include some decidedly un-beachy amenities on the lower levels, including retail space, restaurants and a children’s science museum.
The brainchild of self-described “creative entrepreneur” Blayne Ross, CityBeach launched its first fundraising campaign earlier this week on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo, with the goal of opening to the public by 2016. So far, the campaign has raised just more than $5,000 of the $35,000 target. The entire project will cost an estimated $24 million.
Though June marked CityBeach’s unofficial public debut, the project has already been brewing for two years, Ross says, ever since an outing in 2010 left him frustrated about the lack of sunbathing space along the edges of New York’s rivers.
“I was down on Christopher Street Pier during the summer, and there were probably 1,500 people just in this one spot,” he says. “There were beach towels covering every blade of grass.”
Since then, Ross has set about assembling the CityBeach team, linking up with Craft Engineering Studio and the design firm workshop/apd. He’s also met with the Coast Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation to discuss the feasibility of his idea. If the Indiegogo campaign reaches its target, the money will go towards securing permits from those organizations and drawing up the first operational plan.
As of now, Ross estimates that the barge will be able to hold somewhere between 500 and 700 people at a time, spread between the beach on the upper deck – covered in 1,200 cubic yards of sand – and the lower deck, which will house all the amenities. At 220 feet long by 72 feet wide, the beach itself will be furnished with around 200 beach chairs. The barge won’t contain a swimming pool, Ross says, but depending on final permits, the bravest of beachgoers may be allowed to jump straight from the barge into the Hudson for a dip (seriously, they’d have to be extremely brave).
CityBeach is one of several recent schemes aimed at making the city’s rivers more recreational in the summertime. The Floating Pool Lady, a swimming pool dug into a barge, opened in Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2007 and is now docked near Hunts Point; + POOL, a floating, river-cleaning swimming pool, is plugging along towards its projected 2016 opening; and Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 4 Beach is built on the remnants of an old railroad transfer bridge.
Ross’ CityBeach plan would help bring the city’s most densely populated borough up to date with its neighbors – of the eight beaches operated by the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, none are located in Manhattan.
But sun-worshipping Manhattanites shouldn’t grab their towels just yet – CityBeach still has a long way to go.
Ross hopes that additional waves of crowdfunding will eventually get him as far as purchasing the barge itself. “I understand that there becomes a certain point where we’re not able to take it the full mile,” he says. “That’s an opportunity for brands to come in.” Ultimately, he envisions CityBeach much like CitiBike, with corporate sponsors footing much of the bill in exchange for branding rights.
The other option, he says, is to turn CityBeach into a city- or state-funded project, though “we have yet to explore that.”
Until the CityBeach team has more definitive plans, though, there’s only so much exploration they can do. The barge’s location along the shoreline will determine whether it falls under the purview of the state or the city, said an official with the Department of City Planning. Once that’s sorted out, more details – How long will it be moored? How far off shore will it be? – determine the agencies they’ll talk to and the permits they’ll need.
Until then, Coney Island and Rockaway Beach await your arrival.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 3, 2014