Via The New York Times, written by Alex Williams:
Summer in the city used to mean open fire hydrants, barbecues on fire escapes and those dreaded street fairs. Lounging by the water? You were lucky if you made it to the freak show called Coney Island once.
But now, thanks to the revitalization of the city’s waterfront, it’s possible to spend a summer by the water without leaving New York. There are locavores at the Smorgasburg tents at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 5, taco-eating surfers at Rockaway Beach, clubgoers on Governors Island and TriBeCa moms pushing fancy strollers along Hudson River Park.
New Yorkers no longer feel compelled to ditch the sweltering city every weekend. Indeed, for some, there is a reverse snobbery to shunning the South Fork and enjoying the traffic-free attractions at home.
And just as Bridgehampton draws a different crowd from East Hampton, the city’s sun-kissed waterfront playlands are developing their own distinct tribal affiliations. Here are snapshots of three waterfront spots and the cosmopolitan creatures drawn to them.
Fort Tilden beach
Fort Tilden beach is remote, graffiti-scarred and a bit industrial; in short, it’s Bushwick by the sea. No wonder that this mile-long stretch of sand on the Rockaway Peninsula, which closed after Hurricane Sandy, has re-emerged this summer with an artsy makeover.
“It’s like a beer garden in Williamsburg transposed to the seashore,” Susannah Kalb, 28, who works in film production, said on a sunny Friday.
It does not take a Brooklyn sense of irony to appreciate the natural wonders of Fort Tilden. Ignore for a moment the nonnative fauna (that is, the two-legged visitors in aviator shades), and the landscape could be borrowed from a Hopper painting. Rolling dunes are blanketed in wildflowers. Battery Harris, a former concrete Army gun emplacement, offers stunning vistas of sun-dappled waves.
Part of the charm is its ruins; hollowed-out military buildings and machine shops from its Army days. Fort Tilden is beautiful in the complicated way that Detroit is. It’s a “Mad Max” aesthetic that feels like home to the average L train denizen.
Thanks to the efforts of the Rockaway Artists Alliance, as well as the much-publicized efforts by Patti Smith and Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1, those ruins are now a canvas for artists. Old barracks house photographs by Ms. Smith, sculptures by Adrián Villar Rojas and a sound installation by Janet Cardiff.
The fact that nude sunbathers have long favored this remote beach also lends it an air of art-world edginess, as if beachgoers are participating in their own Marina Abramovic performances. Last Friday, a burly man in his 30s with a red beard had flipped his bicycle onto its handlebars to perform seaside tire repair in the buff. On a nearby blanket, a topless woman chatted blithely with friends, as blasé as if she had just kicked off her sandals.
While clothing is optional, literature, it appears, is not. At Fort Tilden, Stephen King will not do. Reading options that day included The Paris Review, “Slaughterhouse Five” and “The Grapes of Wrath,” with two young actors thumbing through “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” for their book club.
Musical pursuits are welcome, too, so long as they are obscure and idiosyncratic. One 20-something Brooklynite sat alone on a blanket, plucking on his ukulele while staring out to sea.
To some beachgoers, the scene is a little too familiar. “You come down here and you’d see everyone you’d see on Bedford Avenue,” said Mikael Kennedy, 34, a photographer from Greenpoint.
And that, ultimately, may be its undoing. North Brooklyn creative types hate nothing more than when word gets out about their secret haunts. With Rockaway Beach, about a 30-minute bike ride to the east, already brimming with urban surfers, bohemian day-trippers and young partygoers, it may be a matter of time before Fort Tilden is declared over.
“Four or five years ago, you would come down here and it would only be fishermen — it was awesome, it was pretty much abandoned,” said Mr. Kennedy, who was tanning with friends. Then, “it blew up.”
“On Saturdays and Sundays,” he added ruefully, “you can barely fit on the beach.”
Pier 25 in TriBeCa
Aboard the Sherman Zwicker at Pier 25 in TriBeCa. Credit Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Golf. Sailing. Celebrities. Throw in the conspicuous display of luxury timepieces and you have New York’s closest waterfront equivalent to Sagaponack.
For the young hedge-fund managers and analysts who inhabit the nearby finance dominions of TriBeCa and Battery Park City, Pier 25 — which juts out into the Hudson River near North Moore Street — has become the de facto spot to pregame for the Hamptons during the week, and to bring the South Fork closer to home on the weekends that they can’t make it out to their summer shares.
During the day, scrubbed young professionals with perma-tans and perfect teeth congregate at the pier’s myriad outdoor-sports opportunities like sand volleyball and outdoor dance-cardio. A mini-golf course, opened in 2011, is Manhattan’s only 18-holer. It’s the perfect place to give future traders a taste of Maidstone culture on their ninth birthday. The aspiring preppy class can also hone their yachting chops with the Offshore Sailing School.
Even the pier’s Eurocentric playground has become a place to see-and-be-seen, thanks in part to the celebrity parents. Ed Burns and Christy Turlington, Karolina Kurkova, and Leelee Sobieski have been spotted there. They are joined during the day by the freshly blown-out TriBeCa moms, with their Céline bags and their Valentino Rockstud sandals, who transform the playground into a Concours d'Élégance of high-end strollers, with displays of four-figure models by Bugaboo and Stokke almost de rigueur.
One thing that Pier 25 lacked was Hamptons-worthy night life. That’s no longer the case with this month’s opening of Grand Banks, a seasonal oyster bar aboard the Sherman Zwicker, a historic 142-foot fishing schooner docked at the pier’s tip.
During a soft opening over the Fourth of July weekend, the schooner was packed with young professionals with Panerai wristwatches, pink polo shirts and box-fresh boat shoes, who chased down sustainably harvested oysters and fried squash blossoms with nautical-themed cocktails like the Engine Room (lager, aquavit, ginger, lemon). Also spotted were the fedora-and-tattoo types, perhaps lured by the Brooklyn bona fides of Mark Firth, a former owner of Marlow & Sons and Diner.
The owners insist that they were not looking to create a floating version of the meatpacking district.
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“Up until about 1900, the entire downtown waterfront was surrounded by these little oyster barges, some guy selling oysters,” said Miles Pincus, another owner, sipping a negroni during the opening party last Thursday. “It was the everyday, common man’s food. It was not the elevated thing it is now. We thought, ‘Why does that not exist?' ”
Alongside the $3.50 oysters from the Long Island Sound and Huntington Bay, diners can fork over $17 for a small plate of fluke crudo.
“You have to take a ferry to get here, and you can’t leave unless you go by ferry,” said Quinton Kerns, 29, an architect from Harlem who was on his third summer outing to Governors Island last Sunday. “You have to want to get here. You have to earn it.”
Like most visitors to the island that day, Mr. Kerns did not look as if he was straining terribly hard. Wearing black Wayfarers, he stared into a cloudless blue sky from a supine position in one of the island’s 50 new red-rope hammocks, the much-publicized centerpiece of a 30-acre expansion this summer.
The hammock, in fact, is a fitting symbol for what Governors Island has become for many New Yorkers: a shared suburban backyard, a private sanctuary for quiet reflection and unfettered play. Situated only an 800-yard ferry ride from Manhattan (and a seven-minute ferry ride from Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park), the centuries-old military base — currently midway into its seemingly endless transformation into a 100-plus acre recreation area — offers a striking absence of cars, noise, grime and, seemingly, tourists.
The spirit of mass urban decompression was in evidence in every corner of the island last Sunday.
A 40-something dad in camouflage shorts lounged quietly on a blanket, nibbling on water crackers and Brie, as his two young children clambered on a steampunk-inflected sculpture by Oreen Cohen called “A Sharper Lens,” fashioned from reclaimed materials like tires. A Hasidic family in a six-person pedal surrey wheeled down a nearly deserted bike path toward the immaculate new ball fields, the Statue of Liberty looming on the horizon. Twenty-somethings in floral-print Vans browsed the foodie carts, sampling goat-and-fig jam baguettinis and maple grilled cheese sandwiches in the cool shadow of a red brick former Army building.
But as the sun begin to sink, the legions of solace-seeking New Yorkers began to depart, and an entirely different tribe emerged to make the island its own. A tide of 1,000-plus ravers in their early 20s poured off the ferry and streamed into the Gov’nors Beach Club, an open-air club that has held summer dance parties on the island for the last few years.
As Pan-Pot, a Berlin duo, played techno music from a stage at the far end of an open-walled tent, two leggy blond women in micro-cutoffs and white, eight-inch platform high-top sneakers strode toward the dance floor, where the crowd began to undulate as a single, 500-headed organism.
From time to time, the crowd, many sporting plastic bead necklaces and Day-Glo sunglasses, would part just enough for an enterprising young dancer to step out on his own and bust a few moves.
A young man in black sunglasses gyrated in dreamy circles beneath the giant disco ball, a three-foot inflated giraffe perched on his shoulders. A burly raver in a sweat-drenched tank top then broke free from the stonewashed mass and began stomping around furiously near the stage, as if trying to repel an invasion of ants.
“It’s totally B & T,” one man said, as he boarded the ferry back to Manhattan. “I mean, is anyone there from the city?”
As new columns of flesh-baring techno acolytes filed toward the club entrance, the sternum-rattling beat droned on, its internal dramas and crescendos a mystery to the uninitiated. (“It’s the same song, over and over,” said a fire department paramedic on duty, shaking his head.)
Such opinions would be lost on the assembled. Lulled by the hypnotic tempo, they bobbed on toward midnight.