Living In: Long Beach, N.Y.: A Bedroom Community That Began as a Resort

Interest in Long Beach, N.Y., like the Atlantic rollers that crash on its shores, has come in waves.

Oyster-scoopers known as “baymen” were intrigued early on by this barrier island city off the South Shore of Long Island. High-society types took notice after 1880, with the arrival of a railroad and boardwalk-front hotels.






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By The New York Times

When vacationers went elsewhere in the mid-20th century, hospitals commandeered the area, filling hotels with psychiatric patients, to some residents’ chagrin. But in the 1990s, home buyers began trickling back, powering a revival that has yet to crest, even after Hurricane Sandy set things back in a devastating way in 2012.

Throughout, a common bond has been a passion for sand, water and cool temperatures. Others speak favorably about the almost surreal sensation of being part of a bedroom community and a resort at the same time.

“It feels like a vacation,” said Ken Yager, 39, a financial adviser who spends weekdays at an office in Midtown Manhattan and has a more local focus on weekends.

“I wake up, I roll out of bed, and I’m on the beach a minute later,” Mr. Yager said. “There’s always something to do, and there are always people around.”

West Beech Street, the city’s main retail hub, is a quick walk from most homes, which are squeezed onto tiny lots.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Having discovered Long Beach when he was a teenager in nearby Bellmore, Mr. Yager followed a familiar path to the Nassau County city, which is about 20 miles from Manhattan as the sea gull flies.

He began to rent apartments and bungalow-style dwellings, then finally bought his own place. Mr. Yager’s three-level house in the West End neighborhood, which cost $670,000 in 2017, has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a pair of balconies and no yard to keep up.

“If I see a blade of grass,” he joked, “I will spray to get rid of it.”

But for all the residents who arrive from the other side of the drawbridge connecting the barrier island to the rest of Long Island, Long Beach is also home to generations of extended families, whose members are sometimes just a few steps away.

Indeed, the two-bedroom, one-bathroom waterfront co-op that belongs to Joey Naham, 36, an architectural drafter, is adjacent to one owned by his brother, Stephen, 33, a marine biologist. Their great-grandparents relocated from Queens to next-door Lido Beach in 1960.


Tourists have flocked to Long Beach for sun and swimming since the late 1800s. People looking to fish for oysters came earlier.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Joey shares his apartment, which he bought for $285,000 in 2014, with his infant son, Abraham, and wife, Stephanie, 34, a paralegal whose family moved to Long Beach during the Great Depression.

“People who don’t grow up here, they come and just fall in love with the ocean,” Mr. Naham said. “But we all really value this special barrier island.”

Part-timers like Judah Stoller, 46, are scattered here and there. During the week, Mr. Stoller, who works for a financial services company, lives in an Upper East Side co-op with his wife Kira, 46, and daughter, Indiana, 7.

Originally from the Midwest, he was eager to dip his toes in saltwater after moving to New York in 2002, but found the Connecticut coast too rocky, and Fire Island too “exclusive.”

In Long Beach, where the family bought a two-bedroom co-op in 2012 for $325,000, the people were friendly and the sand soft, he said. And his daughter can surf. “There is just some kind of peacefulness that you don’t get anywhere else,” Mr. Stoller said.

Stretched like taffy across about two square miles, the city of Long Beach has 33,657 people, according to 2017 census figures. In summer, the average daytime population, including renters and day-trippers, can push 50,000, officials say.


96 MINNESOTA AVENUE | A three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom house with a garage, built in 2014 on 0.04 acres, listed for $888,000. 516-432-4900CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

In any season, though, the city is dense. Minuscule 30-by-60-foot lots checker the West End, where hipped-roof, single-story bungalows alternate with three-story structures that appear to have more decks than interior space.

Some may not appreciate the houses’ shoehorn-tight spacing; by the looks of it, a snorer might keep the neighbors up at night. But central air-conditioning, residents say, allows for closed windows.

Many tall houses got that way because of Hurricane Sandy, which inundated pancake-flat Long Beach, although no one was killed. Public funds reimbursed owners for lifting buildings, a tab that can reach $100,000 with new foundations, said Kelly Gunn, the chief financial officer of DRG Construction, which has hoisted some 250 houses.

There are silver linings. The elevations create precious ground-level parking spaces, residents said; they can also cut flood-insurance rates by more than 80 percent, down to around $400 a year.

Lots get bigger toward the east, but not by much. In the Walks section, where houses face narrow sidewalks instead of streets, plots are just 40 by 50 feet.

The most legroom may be in the historic Estates area, on streets like East Olive and East Penn. With white-stucco walls and red-tile roofs, the striking, early 20th-century houses evoke the Mediterranean, which is no accident. William H. Reynolds, the city’s master developer, envisioned Long Beach as an American Riviera and promoted an earthy color scheme.


105 VIRGINIA AVENUE | A three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, with water views, central air-conditioning, a garage, built in 2014 on 0.04 acres, listed for $789,000. 516-547-0962CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

In 1907, Mr. Reynolds, the developer of Coney Island’s extinct Dreamland, used two elephants from that amusement park in an elaborate PR stunt to help build Long Beach’s boardwalk.

Sandy destroyed a later version of that boardwalk. But a new $40 million replacement, extending more than two miles, opened in 2013.

Another enclave with a hint of Europe is the Canals section, along East Pine Street, where backyards bump up against skinny, dock-lined inlets, making the area flood-prone, said Douglas Sheer, 70, a resident since the 1950s.

So Mr. Sheer, the president of the Long Beach Island Landmarks Association, raised his house by a story, a project that forced him to relocate for seven months. “I know it’s inconvenient,” he said. “But you know what’s really inconvenient? Getting three feet of water in your house.”

Co-ops, a chunk of the housing market, are tucked by the boardwalk in postwar midrises with pools, sun decks and gyms. There are also condos, many with history. The 1909 former Nassau Hotel, at the corner of the Atlantic and National Boulevard, is now the Ocean Club condo, after a detour in the early 1980s as a home for 110 psychiatric patients. Granada Towers, a Spanish Revival confection, is on the National Register of Historic Places.

As of Mar. 26, there were 176 houses, condos and co-ops for sale, according to the Multiple Listing Service of Long Island.

The priciest was a sleek two-family, with six bedrooms and four full and two half bathrooms, for $3.2 million; the least expensive was an alcove studio co-op for $214,999. Only about 20 properties were listed for more than $1 million.


The oldest houses, built when Long Beach was envisioned as an American Riviera, often have red-tile roofs.CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

While activity has cooled, prices seem hot. In 2017, 262 houses sold for an average of $592,000, according to data from the Long Island Board of Realtors. In 2018, there were just 207 houses sold, the board said, but the average price had jumped to $643,000.

With rentals, there is a wide variety. One-bedrooms listed on Zillow in late March ranged from $1,800 to $2,800 a month.

East Park and West Park Avenues are a popular place to shop and eat, with Japanese, Latino and Greek restaurants. And at Long Beach Surf Shop you can rent beginner boards for $40 a day.

Red tiles, an unofficial motif, turn up everywhere — In addition to the roof of the train station, they adorn a Stop & Shop, a bank and a pharmacy, although not the Burger King.

Another retail hub is along West Beech Street. Bars, many of them Irish, are a draw. Live music thrums even in the off-season, as at Jetty Bar & Grill, which has bands and DJs. But most people are there to worship the sun, at Ocean Beach Park, the Atlantic-side public beach. Adult residents pay $50 for seasonal passes; out-of-towners, $100.

There are four public grade schools in Long Beach. On last year’s state exams, 49 percent of students met standards in English, versus 45 percent statewide; on math exams, 58 percent met standards, versus 45 percent statewide.


In the Canals area, fingers of water graze backyards, allowing homeowners to keep boats. CreditTony Cenicola/The New York Times

Long Beach Middle School serves sixth through eighth grade. And at Long Beach High School, which has a graduation rate of 95 percent, SAT scores in 2017 were 535 on the reading and writing section, and 516 on the math, versus 528 and 555 statewide.

Between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., seven Long Island Rail Road trains run from Long Beach to Penn Station in Manhattan. None take more than an hour, and those without a transfer in Jamaica, Queens, are faster. City buses run to the station every 15 minutes during rush hour; a trip from the West End area takes 15 minutes.

A monthly UniTicket, covering train and bus fares, is $327.

In 1837, Mexico, a three-masted ship packed with Irish immigrants en route to New York City from Liverpool, ran aground in Long Beach, killing 115 men, women and children.

Last November, the city recognized the tragedy with a plaque on the boardwalk near Lincoln Boulevard. Scholars say Walt Whitman, who was living in nearby Babylon at the time of the wreck, paid his own homage in the poem “The Sleepers,” in which he wrote, “I hear the howls of dismay, they grow fainter and fainter.”

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Published at Wed, 03 Apr 2019 17:54:18 +0000