There will be a lifeguard and temporary restrooms come Memorial Day and the beach will be open for swimming like the city Parks Department promised when it reclaimed the privately-leased stretch of land at the foot of Ebbits Street in September, according to the Staten Island Advance.
But the transformation of Cedar Grove Beach into a public park -- including demolition of the cottages, construction of a new playground and bike path and upgrades to the parking lot and sports fields initially anticipated by 2012 -- may still be three years away.
That's according to the most extensive plans outlined by Parks so far, and the subject of a public scoping meeting to be held March 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Lou Caravone Services Building of Community Board 2 at Sea View Hospital Rehabilitation Center and Home.
An Environmental Assessment Statement completed earlier this month found there could be the "potential for significant adverse environmental impacts" in the agency's plans to incorporate Cedar Grove's 78 acres into 10.6 miles of "continuous, open public beach" stretching from the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge to Crescent Beach in Great Kills.
Sign of the Times. "Three Fools" A sign placed along the beach in September depicts Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe and Mayor Michael Bloomberg as the Three Stooges. The sign reads "Three Fools Who Never Came To See For Themselves.... Now There Goes Our Neighborhood... Thank You, Cedar Grove... For Being Staten Island's Last Paradise All these Years. A Shame it Has To End This Way.
Now, Parks must wait on the outcome of an Environmental Impact Statement before applying for permits from city, state and federal agencies -- but the city comptroller has yet to sign off on its preparation.
Plans also are on hold in accordance with the property's designation by the State Historic Preservation Office as eligible for state and national historic listings.
The delays come as no surprise to those who have summered at Cedar Grove for decades.
"[Parks] doesn't have any of their permits, they don't have all their ducks in a row," said Roy Wood, the beach club president whose parents first bought a bungalow there in 1954. "They could have pulled all their permits and let us stay there for another few years. It would have generated income. It's going to be years before anything gets done."
In its Draft Scope of Work For Great Kills Park/Cedar Grove Beach Rehabilitation EIS, Parks outlines a two-phase plan for the project.
Phase 1 includes the demolition of a majority of the cottages, removal of the foundations and oil tanks and the capping and shutting of utilities. Some of the cottages would be salvaged for concessions, comfort stations and headquarters for lifeguards and Parks Enforcement Patrol officers.
Eleanor Dugan said Parks underestimated what it would take to create a public park at Cedar Grove, especially since the beachfront -- which has always been open to the public -- was maintained by the residents out of their own pockets and at no cost to the taxpayers. They have since sold the sand-sifters and other machinery they used to keep the beach clean.
"The Parks Department came in, they made certain assumptions and they were unrealistic assumptions," said Mrs. Dugan, a West Brighton resident whose family first rented a place at Cedar Grove in 1970 after her husband was discharged from the Navy. "They didn't anticipate the problems in turning this land around."
Cedar Grove, one of dozens of beach colonies that dotted the shoreline during the borough's heyday as a resort community, was condemned and acquired by the city in 1958 when Robert Moses, the city's master builder, envisioned a shore parkway running along the borough's coastline.
When the parkway failed to materialize, the city agreed to lease back the land with the understanding it could take it back whenever it wanted. The decision to reclaim the beach last year when the lease expired pitted elected officials against Parks and raised questions about the agency's ability to finance such a project as the city continued to tighten its belt.
No capital commitments have been made beyond $1.8 million in yearly rental payments kept in an account started by then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern in 1992. That's enough for demolition of all but 12 of the bungalows at a cost of $1.1 million, asbestos abatement at $400,000 and conversion of existing structures at $300,000.
Though the residents boarded up their cottages for the final time in September, they still keep strong ties to their summer-time paradise.
"We will still go on as a community and a group," Mrs. Dugan said, "even if we don't have Cedar Grove."
The adjacent Parks Department maintained New Dorp Beach is filled with debris including remains from an abandoned hospital. By sharp contrast, the pristine Cedar Grove Beach was maintained by the Cedar Grove Beach Club, a century-old community of summer beach front cottages. The bungalows were rented from the city under a concession license with the Parks Department. The agency evicted them in the Fall 2010.