$50M restoration of Jacob Riis Art Deco bathhouse adds restaurants, pool, and hotel rooms

October 21, 2022

All photos courtesy of Sylvester Zawadzki

The 90-year-old Art Deco bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park will be restored to its former glory as a beachfront hub under a $50 million rehabilitation project unveiled Thursday. CBSK Developers and the architect firm Beyer Blinder Belle will transform the iconic, but underutilized, 1932 building into a multi-purpose public space with restaurants, a bar, a pool, event spaces, and a 28-room boutique hotel.

Otherwise known as “The People’s Beach,” Rockaway’s Jacob Riis Park was built in the 1930s, making it one of the city’s oldest planned recreational beaches. The park’s Art Deco bathhouse, which was once home to two restaurants, a cafeteria, and concession stands, was completed in 1932 and renovated by Robert Moses in 1937.

The bathhouse was actively used until the 1970s, but after years of neglect, ownership of the bathhouse was transferred to the Gateway National Recreation with plans to restore the building. A renovation project began but was never finished.

Then in 2012, Hurricane Sandy caused additional damage to the bathhouse, including the loss of its doors and window coverings, and the knocking down of its courtyard wall, according to a press release. After the storm, the structure received a “flow-through design” that would better equip the historic property for a future weather event.

In 2016, the National Park Service (NPS) announced a request for proposals to lease the building and related facilities. Events and concession company Brooklyn Bazaar was selected by NPS to renovate the facility in 2017 after an RFP process.

The project will start with a full restoration of the building’s facade, which will include preserving its iconic Byzantine, Moorish, and Moderne artistic influences.

Public amenities planned include a rooftop restaurant, ground-floor eateries, a casual beachfront bar, and retailers selling beach necessities like sunblock and towels. There will be 28 hotel rooms, a catering hall, and multiple event spaces.

A pool with lounge areas will be built in the building’s outdoor courtyard. The project team says a phased opening is expected to start next year.

“As a New Yorker with deep Queens roots, the chance to revitalize this iconic city landmark is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Scott Shnay of CBSK said.  “This project will help return the bathhouse to its former glory and add modern restaurants and attractions to the historic Jacob Riis waterfront.”

The restoration project will use the best practices to ensure resiliency and sustainability for coastal developments, according to Rockawave. Included within the plan are a comprehensive floodproofing system and a zero-waste program. There are also plans to include native plants within the project’s landscaping design.

The developmental plans have been reviewed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office for Coastal Management (NOAA) and NPS to ensure that the project doesn’t affect the area’s local habitat and wildlife.

“This project to revitalize and rejuvenate the 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.”


All photos courtesy of Sylvester Zawadzki

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