Art Deco bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park to undergo $50 million restoration

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and National Parks Service officials unveiled plans Thursday for the $50 million restoration of the bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park. (Photo by Sylvester Zawadzki)

The iconic 90-year-old Art Deco bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park will undergo a $50 million extreme makeover after sitting underutilized for nearly half a century.

The historic preservation project will transform the building’s facade to its original glory and feature a rooftop restaurant with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, a surfside bar, a pool, retail and event spaces, 28 hotel rooms and a catering hall.

“This project to revitalize and rejuvenate Jacob Riis Bathhouse represents a giant step forward for the Rockaway Peninsula as it continues to recover from the battering it received from Hurricane Sandy a decade ago,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “By restoring the Jacob Riis Bathhouse to its glorious past, we are creating a brighter future for the Rockaways, its residents and its many visitors. I look forward to visiting the fully restored Jacob Riis Bathhouse and to taking advantage of the many amenities that will be available to those who will be visiting this amazing structure.”

Ownership of the building was turned over to the National Park Service in the 1990s as part of Gateway National Recreation Area. A partial renovation was underway when funding for the project ran out.

“The bathhouse is emblematic of over half a century of the quintessential NYC seaside experience,” Gateway Superintendent Jen Nersesian said. “Its restoration connects beachgoers with this heritage and provides a new suite of visitor opportunities for generations to come.”

(Photo by Sylvester Zawadzki)

Rockaway Beach boardwalk concessionaire Brooklyn Bazaar, a partner on the project, was selected by the National Parks Service to renovate the facility in 2017 following a competitive process. Brooklyn Bazaar owners Belvy Klein and Aaron Broudo began laying the groundwork to restore the bathhouse as soon as they began operating in the Rockaways, and they signed a lease on the property on Oct. 20.

“Since arriving at Riis Park in 2015 with Riis Park Beach Bazaar, then expanding our beach operations to the downtown concessions with Rockaway Beach Bazaar, we have been honored to be part of Rockaway’s comeback post, Superstorm Sandy,” they said in a statement to QNS. “We have met and worked alongside countless amazing members of the Rockaway community and are so excited to kick off this project and transform one of Queens’ most beloved landmarks — the bathhouse in Jacob Riis Park — back to its original glory and then some. We are grateful for the support of our local elected officials, our partnership with the National Parks Service and our project partners. We look forward to beginning work on this historic project.”

(Photo by Sylvester Zawadzki)

Councilwoman Joann Ariola said the two had made a “monumental impact” in the Rockaways helping to transform it back into the summertime destination it was known for in the past.

“Whether it was at the Riis Bazaar or further downtown at the Rockaway Bazaar, Belvy, Aaron and their crew have breathed new life into an area that only 10 years ago was completely decimated by Superstorm Sandy,” Ariola said. “This latest campaign at the Riis Park Bathhouse will no doubt be another step forward toward restoring Rockaway to its former position as a premier summertime destination, and I can’t wait to see what they bring to the location next summer.”

Plans for the project underwent careful review by New York’s State Historic Preservation Office and will preserve the building’s famed Byzantine, Moorish and modern influences while adding new modern uses.

“There is a reason this is called ‘The People’s Beach’ because this community has always been a place where everyone is welcomed,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said. “To see this area being brought back to its glory and provide a space where families can spend time and be happy is remarkable. The restoration will bring jobs, commerce and opportunity to the area that we all know is the jewel of New York. I want to thank the project developers and everyone involved in this project for their vision and work.”

CBSK Developers and renowned architecture firm Beyer Blinder Belle will begin work on the $50 million restoration this fall, with a phased opening expected to start in 2023.

“As a New Yorker with deep Queens roots, the chance to revitalize this iconic city landmark is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” CBSK’s Scott Shnay said. “This project will help return the bathhouse to its former glory and add modern restaurants and attractions to the historic Jacob Riis waterfront. We are grateful for our partnership with the National Parks Service and look forward to work getting underway.”