Jones Beach to revamp historic East Bathhouse


Jones Beach’s historic East Bathhouse will have a second life, thanks to a $100 million investment by the state that will turn the almost century-old building into a state-of-the-art swimming facility.

Gov. Kathy Hochul spoke of the bathhouse upgrades at a news conference at the state park on May 23, detailing the redesign and reimagining of the long-abandoned facility. According to Hochul, the building is the last major piece of infrastructure at Jones Beach that hasn’t been updated since the pool complex was shut down in 2008 during the financial crisis.

The revitalization, which will be funded by the state’s capital budget, will convert the bathhouse’s Olympic-size pool into a small pool for children and beginning swimmers, as well as a playground complete with splash pads — ground nozzles that spray water upward. According to Hochul, these upgrades will help new generations learn to swim as the number of drownings around the state has risen.

“Drownings in the state of New York have reached record highs in recent years, claiming over 230 lives in 2021,” the governor said. “Children are particularly vulnerable. Drownings are the leading cause of death for 1- to 4-year-olds across the country, and the second-leading cause of death for 5- to 14-year-olds.”

According to Hochul, the facility improvements will be part of the New York StateWide Investment in Municipal Swimming initiative, also known as NY SWIMS, which is aiming to provide swimming access across the state to underserved communities and areas that experience extreme summer heat. The initiative, according to the governor’s website, will reverse decades of disinvestment to ensure that public parks offer new, state-of-the-art swimming facilities that can serve thousands of daily visitors and provide safe spaces for children and families to swim.

Bobby Hazen, co-founder of the New York Water Safety Coalition, said that the state ranks fourth in the nation in total drownings, with over 1,240 deaths reported since 2009. Hazen, whose coalition advocates for water safety policies, added that drowning is preventable with proper education and swim lessons.

According to a statement released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent last month, over 4,500 people in the United States drowned each year from 2020 to 2022 — 500 more deaths per year than in 2019. Roughly 15 percent of adults do not know how to swim, according to the CDC, and over half have never taken a lesson.

“We need to really kind of have this initiative to help people learn how to swim,” Hazen said.

Jones Beach, Hochul said, is the second most visited state park in New York, behind only Niagara Falls. Some 8.6 million people visited Jones Beach last year, she added, almost 50 percent of them from New York City.

George Gorman, Long Island regional director of New York State Parks, said the infrastructure improvements at the East Bathhouse are sorely needed. The facility has deteriorated extensively, with bricks missing from the walls and collapsed ceilings, which he noted is expected of a building that has been abandoned for well over a decade.

The bathhouse is one of the original buildings at Jones Beach, which opened in 1929. At the time, it was not a pool complex, Gorman explained, but a massive locker room.

“This is an incredible upgrade,” Gorman said. “From a deteriorated, vacant building, it will now be a destination for families of all ages.”

Planning for the project is underway, he said, with the design expected to be completed by the end of the summer, and the bidding for construction to follow “shortly thereafter.”

Randy Simons, commissioner pro tempore the State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said in a statement that swimming, a critical life skill, is one of the most popular and fun ways people enjoy the state’s parks, and that the announcement of the East Bathhouse upgrade comes at an appropriate time, because this year marks the 100th anniversary of the state parks.

“As we celebrate the Centennial of the New York State Park System, it’s fitting that the revitalization of the historic Jones Beach East Bathhouse is a centerpiece of Governor Hochul’s NY SWIMS initiative,” Simons said.