Gov. Andrew Cuomo day-tripped Wednesday to Jones Beach State Park, unveiling a beautifully restored dining spot, before taking a victory lap on his $900 million state park improvement project.
The governor headed for The Landing at Jones Beach, originally the park’s Marine Dining Room, now upgraded with a host of modern amenities – plus a menu featuring kung pao calamari and crab sandwiches – as part of $65 million in state-funded improvements being made to Jones Beach.
The new facility, part of the state park’s West Bathhouse and managed by New York City-based food-services firm COFFEED, officially opened July 27, marking a major comeback for a once-proud facility.
“It was destroyed, basically,” the polo-shirted Cuomo told the audience. “To see it come back to grandeur fills my heart with a sense of pride.”
Pride, or lack of it, has been the problem, according to Cuomo. Recalling New York State’s once “breathtaking” infrastructure ambitions – including the 19th century construction of the Erie Canal, the turn-of-the-20th-century construction of the 600-mile New York City subway system and the post-World War II construction of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, then the world’s longest suspension bridge – Cuomo suggested complacency had taken hold of the Empire State.
One result of those dwindling ambitions, he added, is a state park system that’s fallen behind the times.
“We disrespected our legacy,” Cuomo said. “Now, we are restoring it.”
On Long Island, the effort extends to Bethpage State Park, Sunken Meadow State Park and several other registered parklands. Improvements include the installation of solar-powered electricity generators for parking lot lighting, the construction of new bathhouses and boardwalks, the inclusion of “sensory gardens” for disabled and non-disabled visitors and other fresh amenities – including, at Jones Beach State Park, a top-to-bottom refit of the Marine Dining Room.
In many ways, the governor noted, Jones Beach is the poster child for the great ambition that once marked New York infrastructure development and the decades of disinterest that followed – making the refurbished dining room’s grand re-opening a strong symbol of Albany’s desire to restore the glory of the state park system.
“[Jones Beach] was a masterpiece,” Cuomo said in his speech. “This was seven miles of swamp, essentially. They brought in 14 feet of fill for the entire seven miles to raise it up and build a beach.
“Just imagine, how ambitious an undertaking that was,” he added. “We couldn’t even envision that kind of boldness today.”
But what was once an “international icon” fell from that pedestal along with the rest of the state park system, according to the governor – hence, NY Parks 2020 and its $900-million-plus war chest.
“After 40 or 50 years of neglect, it takes that much to bring [the parks] back to what they were,” Cuomo noted.
A $65 million chunk of that total is earmarked for Jones Beach State Park, which in addition to new food choices – and beautiful ocean views – at the restored Marine Dining Room is incorporating a number of updated amenities: automated parking facilities, new hiking trails, a refortified boardwalk and more.
“We’re going to bring it back to its original majesty, from one end of the beach to the other,” Cuomo said Wednesday.
“This is a great economic-development tool,” he added. “We had 500,000 more visitors to the beach since we started the rehabilitation, about 6 million visitors total.
“And we get 20 million tourists who come to Long Island (annually), and they bring spirit and personality and diversity and $55 billion in economic activity,” Cuomo added. “Jones Beach should be, once again, an international tourist destination.”