With summer unofficially starting this weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unwrapped a big present for Long Island beachcombers.
The governor on Thursday cut the ribbon on $36 million in restoration and improvement projects at Jones Beach State Park, including upgrades to the park’s West Bathhouse and East and Central malls and a new mobile app designed to help motorists find parking in the park’s seasonally crowded lots.
The $36 million is part of the $65 million Jones Beach Revitalization Plan Cuomo announced in March 2014. That plan has since been folded into Parks 2020, a $1 billion commitment to restore New York’s entire state parks system Cuomo introduced last year.
“We invite all New Yorkers to come visit the new Jones Beach,” Cuomo said Thursday. “It’s not what you thought it was. If you haven’t been here in a few years, come because it is different.”
Among the differences: new concession stands and a new Taste NY Bar featuring state-originated foodstuffs and craft beverages inside the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. Also coming are boardwalk renovations – fewer splinters, Cuomo promised – and the new prototype parking app, which is expected to go live this summer.
When it does, Cuomo noted, it will address a “trauma” familiar to many motorists who’ve spent a half hour or longer cruising Jones Beach’s parking lots in search of a spot.
“When you’re coming down the highway, you can look at an app on your phone and it’ll tell you just what parking lots are filled, what parking lots are empty and the percentages, so you’ll know exactly where to go,” Cuomo said. “That is something that even FDR, AL Smith and Robert Moses didn’t think of.”
Alas, most of the upgrades, including the parking app, will not be ready in time for this weekend’s Bethpage Air Show, the state park’s annual summer-season kickoff. Although many of the improvements are still in the planning stage, the airshow – which features the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the Golden Knights stunt parachute team and other high-flying attractions – is expected to draw tens of thousands to Jones Beach this holiday weekend.
The governor acknowledged that $900,000 is “a lot of money” for park renovations, but referenced $200 million in economic activity spurred annually by the state park system and categorized the spending as an “investment in a system that is unique in the nation.”
He also credited Long Island’s bipartisan state government delegation – including Senators Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore) and Michael Venditto (R-Massapequa) and Assembly members Dave McDonough (R-Merrick), Chuck Lavine (D-Glen Cove) and Joe Saladino (R-Massapequa Park) – with bringing home the state park funding, including the $36 million for the first phase of the Jones Beach work.
“The Long Island delegation really got it,” Cuomo said. “They were champions.”