Long Beach welcomes a new summer season


Jimmy Hennessy, 56, has lived in Long Beach all of his life. He met his wife, Bonnie, on the Franklin Boulevard Beach. She was on a four-day layover for a flight back to her home in Los Angeles.  “She never left,” Hennessy said.

Hennessy, his wife and their two children, Seamus, 17, and Molly, 19, will be among thousands in Long Beach making their way to the beach this Memorial Day Weekend. The City of Long Beach is about to welcome another summer, with the unofficial opening day Saturday morning. There will be speeches and music at the newly renovated Magnolia Park. A sign will greet visitors:

“Summer Starts Here.’

To residents and visitors, Long Beach is all about summer.

The chilly and grey winter months find people condensed in their homes. But when the Summer Solstice arrives,  the city becomes alive. On a sunny, warm weekend, some 50,000 to 60,00 people make use of the beaches, according to Joe Brand, Long Beach’s recreation commissioner, and a lifelong resident.

Hennessy will spend summer days at the beach, backyard barbecuing, and welcoming back friends who rent summer homes near the beach. In many ways, Hennessy embodies Long Beach. He sports a beach tan, had served as a member of the city council at one time, retired last year from his teaching job at Hewlett High School, and looks forward to each summer like one awaits a warm breeze on a cold afternoon.

“Long Beach is summer,” said Hennessy.

He is old enough to remember the days when Long Beach has its share of rundown homes inhabited by former mental patients released from the state mental hospitals. But those were also the days the families he knew who lived in modest homes upstate would come down for the summer.

He remembers the parties and the celebrations, some of them at the home of his mother, at 41 Kentucky Street.

“What is summer in Long Beach?” said Brand, who was born at the old Long Beach Hospital in 1964. “If you were to poll the people who grew up here, they will tell you that summer means new lease on life. It’s a relaxation. It’s something we’re going to enjoy.”

Long Beach is not always inexpensive or easy to navigate. Beach fees are going up. Resident individual passes are $85, up from $70 last year.  Resident family passes remain at $115. Parking, always difficult, becomes like completing a triathlon.  Summer rebels, if one can find one, are a gut punch.

Nonetheless, residents can’t seem to get enough of it.

Harvey Weisenberg, 89, known widely as “Mr. Long Beach,” has been a New York State assemblyman, a Long Beach police officer, a teacher at city schools, and a lifeguard.

“God gave us a blessing,” Weisenbegg said. “Summertime is as time for people to take advantage of all our city has to offer.”

Mike Delury, another Long Beach life and former city council member, raised his family here and has never left.

“Long Beach is like no other place I’ve ever been” Delury said. He noted the things to do: the beach, the restaurants, the parks, the clubs and the music.

“You never know what you’ll come up next,” Delury said.

But big changes are coming to Long Beach. Thousands will occupy expensive condos in the Superblock within a few years. That will mean more crowded streets and beaches.

There is also competition from nearby Arverne, in the Rockaways, which has added a nouveau restaurant. It is also a subway ride from New York City.

Brand and some other city officials took a tour of Arverne and emerged with a thought they wish they never had,

“It’s inviting there,” Brand said. They’re doing it right.” 

Long Beach has eateries on the boardwalk, including Beach Burger, Marvel Ice Cream, Riptides, The Surfside Subs/Shakes & Shuckers and Snack Shack. There are also boardwalk carts and mobile carts.

Arverne has added restaurants with foreign dishes and styles.