Thanks to the nightmare of Sandy last fall, Rockaway Beach, the best subway beach in the city, was in danger of remaining inaccessible by rail all summer. Yes, there’s now the Rockabus option, which provides roundtrip, street-to-sand express bus service from three locations: Williamsburg, the East Village/Lower East Side, and Grand Army Plaza. And I hear that it’s fun, the Rockabus experience, especially if you’re in your 20s, and enjoy beer.
But to me, a day at Rockaway means taking the A, reading and relaxing on the train, and enjoying the fantastic views on that last, long stretch before Broad Channel. Plus there’s always something slightly thrilling about getting on the subway near your NYC apartment, and emerging however-number of minutes later right at the Atlantic Ocean.
Rockaway Beach is (somewhat) Open, Fun, and has Restored A Train Service
Anyway, the great news is this: the MTA has repaired the entire Sandy-destroyed A line all the way out to Rockaway Beach, just in time for the sun-and-fun season. I went to Beach 98 recently for the first time since last year, to see how the neighborhood, the boardwalk, the sand, and (of course) how NYC’s best taco stand had recovered from the storm. Results were mixed, and it’s staggering to see how much work still needs to be done, but the bottom line is this: you can definitely have a beautiful beach day, complete with awesome fish tacos, at Rockaway right now.
The Boardwalk Still Needs Fixed after Hurricane Sandy
The Beach 98 neighborhood streets have been cleaned and cleared of debris, but several businesses remain shuttered from Sandy (though the great little bodega by the subway is open), and some homes look as if they’ve been abandoned. The biggest heartbreaker for me is the boardwalk, which remains a worn, pitted skeleton of support beams. Although they couldn’t fix the boardwalk proper in time for summer (or ever?), there are large concrete “islands” at the major concession and bathroom areas, which serve their purpose but lack any kind of charm. Hopefully when the beachfront food-and-drink stands reopen (they were closed as of June 2, though the restrooms were working) the area will feel less like a parking lot.
Rockaway Beach itself is doing fine, sand-wise, with some stretches much more narrow than in years past. There was technically no swimming allowed where I was–the lifeguards were only at Beach 90 and Beach 116, though the pod-like, semi-controversial $4 million elevated stations seem to be ready at Beach 98–a quick dip proved that the water is just as wonderfully cold, clean, and clear as it always is this time if year. Speaking of wonderful, Rockaway Taco is fully back in business, cranking out massive amounts of the city’s best fish taco (the chorizo one’s pretty excellent too) for sun-loving masses. Go early, or expect at least a half hour wait.