2009-05-01 / Community

Breezy Clubs To Remain Open This Summer

By Nicholas Briano

Those negotiating the future of the Breezy Point beach clubs received good news this week when it was announced that the clubs have reached a new temporary three year agreement to remain open until 2011, according to National Park Service officials.

The Silver Gull Club and the Breezy Point Surf Club have been serving the people of Rockaway and surrounding areas since the 1960s. Their proprietor, Tom August, signed the new deal with the National Park Service (NPS) on April 15.

Under this new three-year temporary agreement, the clubs will be required to operate in similar fashion to other businesses that operate authorized concessions in the national parks.

Standard NPS concession requirements include quality visitor services, building maintenance, environmental planning and management, a visitor safety program, and payment of a specified franchise fee to the government.

Gateway National Recreation Area General Superintendent Barry Sullivan thanked the clubs for their continued cooperation in getting a deal done that will ensure the continuity of services provided at Breezy Point. He also pointed out the efforts of Senator Charles Schumer and Congressman Anthony Weiner, whom he says were critical in bringing about a new concession contract.

"For 45 years, generations of families have flocked to Silver Gull to enjoy the beach, swim in the pools, and take part in community events. Preserving this jewel in the middle of our urban jungle will help the local economy thrive and is a major win for everyone," Weiner said after the announcement.

Permits to operate on the federal park land were routinely renewed since the club's property became federal land in 1974. However, as a result of a 2006 audit by the United States Inspector General examining how federal park lands, including Gateway, were used, it was found that Gateway had inappropriately issued a Special Use Permit that allowed the beach club operators to have exclusive use of federal lands and buildings.

In response, it was agreed that Gateway would bring the clubs into compliance with the federal guidelines.

A temporary, one-year Special Park Use Permit had been issued to allow the clubs to operate during the 2008 season and talks have since been ongoing to create and agree upon a new temporary non-renewable three-year contract.

Changes to Gateway could be on the horizon, however, because during this three-year period a new General Management Plan for the park will be drawn. The new plan will evaluate and decide how the lands should be used, including the beach clubs and any other business concessions currently operating at Gateway.

This process will include legally required environmental impact studies and public meetings to obtain input from the park's visitors about the future management of Gateway's Breezy Point District. When that phase of the General Management plan is complete, a decision is expected to be made about the best alternative for the public use of all Gateway lands, including the beach clubs, according to NPS officials.

That does not mean the beach clubs will not operate past 2011; it just means that changes to the park could be imminent and that may or may not impact the future of the clubs, an NPS official stated.

In the meantime, in order to enhance public use, NPS and the clubs have instituted a daily membership option of $50 per person, $30 for children, in addition to the existing season-long memberships that sell for $465 per person. Optional cabanas are also available and priced as high as $4,000 per summer. This generates a total of more than $7 million annual revenue for the two clubs, NPS officials said last year. In years past a daily pay per visit option wasn't available, requiring visitors to purchase summer-long membership.

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