Water Taxi Beach
Jenn and I made an excellent discovery yesterday: a perfect white-sand beach on the East River at Hunters Point in Long Island City, Queens called Water Taxi Beach. Here is a link and here is another.
I can't sing the praises of this wonderful beach loudly enough, for it has everything you could want in a beach, except swimming (although you can get wet). Here's what we saw as we walked through the gate. You can click on any of these photos to make them big.
Water Taxi Beach is thusly named because it's located at the Hunters Point stop on the New York Water Taxi route. In order to boost weekend ferry traffic to Queens, New York Water Taxi President Tom Fox had the brilliant idea of creating a one-third acre sand beach complete with picnic tables, beach volleyball court, snack stand, beach bar, groovy music, and a spectacular view of Manhattan, right next to the ferry slip.
It's an excellent beach, and if it wasn't closed today I'd say ditch your job right now and get there. Naturally, the beach is served by New York Water Taxi (easy access from East 34th Street in Manhattan) but it's also a breeze to get there by subway. We took the G train from Brooklyn to get there, and we walked home.
Here's a view taken from the northeast corner.
So here's how it went. Last week Jenn had mentioned to me that this beach existed, so we decided to pay a visit on Sunday. We vacillated a while on Sunday morning, thinking it might be too hot to go to the beach, but we finally got our act together and left the house right before noon. It took a short subway ride and short walk to get there, and we were instantly impressed.
We were among the first guests to arrive at the beach. The weather was hot and sunny, with occasional clouds and a pleasant breeze. We chose a picnic table near the water with an umbrella to protect me from the sun's harmful rays (I don't do too well in the sun).
We soon noticed that there were misters lining the main area where the tables are set up. When I say misters, I mean things that spray a very fine mist of water over the area to cool the temperature a little bit. Misters are popular in places like outdoor cafes in Phoenix, Arizona.
Jenn took this photo of me by the water. The yellow hose you see behind me is the mister hose, and the little black dots along the hose are where the mist comes out. Whenever I got too hot I would go and put my face in front of the mister to cool off. Everybody loved the misters.
Here's an artistic photo that Jenn shot. The green hose, creatively coiled because it was a bit longer than they needed, connects to the misting apparatus above.
We were really grooving on the beach and the whole scene, pleased with ourselves for making the trip. We noticed that everybody else who was arriving also seemed pleased with themselves. We suspect the beach saw a lot of first-timers because New York Magazine published a story on it last week. Anyway, the beach has only been open for less than a month.
And what's so great about it is it's a real beach. Yes, they trucked in New Jersey sand, and yes it's fenced off from the water, but the vibe is very much a beach vibe. As soon as I smelled the sunscreen it put me in a beach frame of mind, and I really appreciated the scent of the ocean and the warm sunshine.
Here's a look through the fence near where we were sitting.
In this one I just looked to the right a little bit. Please notice (from left to right) the Chrysler Building, the United Nations, the Trump building (tall dark tower) and the Citicorp Center (silver with sloping roof).
We also saw that everybody was delighted when they noticed the misters, and cooling off by the misters became a regular pastime. We referred to it as "going for a swim" because it's the closest you can come to swimming at that beach. I went for a swim about a half-dozen times.
So in case I haven't made it clear, this was the view from our beach picnic area.
The picnic tables (I counted 24 of them) were situated in the south end of the beach, and six of the tables had umbrellas (a seventh umbrella was added later). Our umbrella had an advertisement for Caffe Miscela D'Oro. It's not quite a Campari umbrella, or even a Cinzano umbrella, but it did nicely. Here's a picture of our umbrella from the underside, with the Empire State Building in the backround.
We were hungry, so I went to the Bar/Snack Stand (Harry's LIC at Water Taxi Beach) and bought two turkey dogs for Jenn (which was one more than she wanted) and a cheeseburger, beef frank, and Coca-Cola for myself. We ate and enjoyed our breakfast while feeling the warm breeze and enjoying the view. The food was excellent. Next time I'll try the elk burger.
More and more people started arriving as the Water Taxis came and went. Here's a picture of one of the first Water Taxis we saw pulling into the slip. By the way, it's four bucks each way between Long Island City (LIC for short) and East 34th Street in Manhattan.
The music selection was also quite good. Here are a few sample artists we heard that set the scene nicely: David Bowie (Starman and others), Creedence (Suzie Q), The Smiths, The Beatles, Sean Paul, LL Cool J, Rolling Stones (Fade to Black), Big Pun, Slick Rick/Doug E. Fresh, Stevie Wonder, Seal, Lou Reed (or Velvet Underground, whichever did Wild Side), The Clash, and many others.
There were all types of people there, from Brooklyn Hipsters to elderly Italians, to a trio of young beer-drinking Sri Lankan women, to a Hasidic guy who was dressed very warmly, to the volleyball-playing studs (and not quite studs) to, well, just about everybody you see in New York was represented on the beach.
Here are some of our neighbors.
Jenn took in the sun while I hid under the umbrella and read the paper. Pretty soon it was time to get a beer. The bar has an amazing selection and very low prices, considering the location. As they say, drinks are "priced with respect." You can get a draft beer for four bucks, a 24-ounce Pabst Blue Ribbon "Tall Boy" for two bucks (you heard me right, two bucks), and big, delicious margaritas and daquiris for eight bucks.
Here's a photo of the bar.
And here's a decent shot of the north half of the beach area (note the United Nations building across the river).
Here's a shot of the south half of the beach area, where we were sitting.
Here's one of many cute pictures of Jenn.
And here's me doing the Pee-Wee Herman on a bench.
We stayed at the beach for almost five hours, reading the newspaper, drinking beers, taking swims in the mist, people watching, and just relaxing. Here is a picture of our server, who was very nice.
And here is the other beach server, who is wearing New York City beach attire. He seemed like a good person as well.
This photo is entitled Ketchup, Mustard, Empire State Building
I drank a beer so fine it won a blue ribbon in a certain beer competition in 1894.
Here's the water taxi cruising in with more beach bums. The sunlight reflected on the water like a million diamonds.
Finally we packed our things, visited the surprisingly clean porta potties, and hit the road. Here's one last beach picture.
I said "give me Blue Steel." Seriously, I am a lucky guy.
We decided to walk home, across the Pulaski Bridge to Greenpoint. It was hot, but I almost don't believe it was this hot.
Here's the entrance to the Queens Midtown Tunnel. Can you believe it costs $4.50? That's fifty cents more than the ferry costs, and I bet the ferry is a lot more fun.
Finally, here's a shot of Newtown Creek, which separates Brooklyn and Queens. You can just see the creek open up into the East River in this photo.
When we got home we had planned to quickly shower and then go out for Belgians and a cheese and charcuterie plate at Spuyten Duyvil. However, we didn't realize how tired we were after all that sun and fun, so we relaxed, watched Entourage, and went to bed.
Here's the bottom line: get to Water Taxi Beach as soon as you can. We had a great time during the day, but it looks like the nighttime scene is happening as well. Make plans! Go!