A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeye's fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from September 17, 2012
People’s Beach (Jacob Riis Park)

Jacob Riis (1849-1914) was a journalist/photographer famous for his book, How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York (1890). Riis attempted to expose the plight of the poor in New York City’s tenements in much of his work. Jacob Riis Park is located in Queens.

The beach in Jacob Riis Park has been dubbed the “People’s Beach” since at least 2005 (in New York magazine). Coney Island has the similar nickname of “People’s Playground.”

Wikipedia: Jacob Riis Park
Jacob Riis Park in the New York City borough of Queens, is part of the Jamaica Bay Unit of the Gateway National Recreation Area, and is managed by the National Park Service (NPS). It lies at the foot of the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, toward the southwestern end the Rockaway Peninsula, just east of Fort Tilden and west of Rockaway Beach. The Jacob Riis Park Historic District features an extensive sand beach and an art deco bath house built in 1932, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The bathhouse provides a place to get out of the sun and learn about the park’s history. The park is named for Jacob Riis, a famous New York City muckraker journalist and photographer who documented the plight of the poor and working class.

The park was largely built on the site of the former Rockaway Naval Air Station, one of the first US naval air stations. Riis Park was designed by the politically powerful New York City Park Commissioner Robert Moses, who had also created Jones Beach as a state park further east on Long Island in 1929. Moses saw Riis Park as a Jones Beach for poor immigrants, and ensured that the location was accessible by public transportation and closer to Manhattan. The Atlantic Ocean beach, boardwalks, courtyards, and walkways gave the city’s poor a respite from cramped tenements and crowded city streets. In addition to easy access via public buses, a huge parking lot with over 5,000 parking spaces, the largest in the world at the time it was built, provides ample space for those who preferred to drive.

New York magazine
Jacob Riis Park
Rockaway Beach Blvd. at Channel Dr., Queens, NY 11694

“The People’s Beach” is the main attraction of the 26,607-acre Gateway National Recreation Area that surrounds New York Harbor. This particular mile-long stretch was the site of one of the first U.S. Naval Air Stations until 1928, and in 1937 Robert Moses opened what he hoped would be a more democratic, accessible version of Jones Beach. Jacob Riis has since been transferred to the National Park Service, and is, in effect, a continuation of neighboring Rockaway Beach. It draws the same eclectic mix of sun-seekers, but its shabbier state, crabgrass-eaten concrete boardwalk, and grand Art Deco bathhouse give it the feel of a relic akin to its other neighbor Fort Tilden.

Google Books
Government and the People
By Joseph Ragland Long
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Pg. 354:
The influence of playgrounds in preventing juvenile delinquency is very marked. “The making of a people’s park or playground,” wrote Jacob Riis, “has invariably been followed by a decrease of ruffianism and gang violence. The boy would rather play than fight the police.”

New York magazine
Get Wet
A water obsessive’s guide to beaches, creeks, lakes, swimming holes, and lazy, hazy rivers—all within two hours of midtown Manhattan.

Published Jun 22, 2008
Minutes From Midtown: 75
Get There By: Subway. A to Rockaway Park–116th St., transfer to the Q35 or Q22.
Cool Off: The so-called People’s Beach is decidedly laid-back; topless bathing is more or less ignored on the eastern stretch.
Eats:Unfurl picnics at the gazebos across from the parking area.
Know This: Beach open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Info: 718-318-4300.

Google Books
Pow Wow: Charting the Fault Lines in the American Experience:
Short Fiction from Then to Now

Edited by Ishmael Reed
Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press
Pg. ?:
My only shot at the beach lately has been Jacob Riis Park, which my friend Janice has dubbed “the people’s beach” and where the sand is dark grey, although Janice has tried to convince me this is due to minerals.

Google Books
Metro New York Off the Beaten Path:
A Guide to Unique Places

By Susan Finch
Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press
Pg. 95:
Hit the local favorite Jacob Riis Park (http://www.nyharborparks.org/visit/jari .html), often called “The People’s Beach,” and wander over to the recently restored Art Deco bathhouse from the 1930s.

The Michael A. W. Evans Archive
Friday, August 17, 2012
1972: The People’s Beach (Jacob Riis Park, Queens, NY)
July 23, 1972: An unpublished picture of the Jacob Riis Park parking lot in Queens. 
Photo: Michael Evans/The New York Times

New York (NY) Times
A Promise Unfulfilled at an Art Deco Bathhouse in the Rockaways
Published: August 21, 2012
With its octagonal brick towers rising above the beach, the sprawling bathhouse at Jacob Riis Park in the Rockaways has, since opening in 1932, served as a monument to Art Deco design, grand public works and populist fun. Lately, however, it has become a symbol of something else: public frustration.

Renovation work began in the 1990s on the bathhouse, which is part of the federal Gateway National Recreation Area. Nearly $20 million was spent on asbestos removal, electrical upgrades, window replacements, new elevators and facade work. Politicians predicted that the bathhouse would be a fitting centerpiece of Jacob Riis Park, which is nicknamed the People’s Beach, while beachgoers envisioned cafes and souvenir shops, hot showers and community space.

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