Are you a QTBIPOC who loves Riis Beach? If so, you’re part of a long legacy of queer folks making the beach what it is! Jacob Riis Park was originally built for poor and working class New Yorkers, and Bay 1 (the queer end!) has been a queer gathering place since at least the 1940s. Audre Lorde herself writes about going to Riis in the 1950s, Salsa Soul Sisters used to throw annual Hot Summer Beach Day parties here in the ‘80s, and stories of our gathering fill the space between!
Our sense of freedom at Riis is in part thanks to the protection offered by the now-crumbling buildings behind the beach, both when they were actively operating as a hospital complex AND after they were abandoned by Giuliani in 1998 and left to deteriorate. Now, debris from the buildings is threatening damage to nearby houses during storms, and the City has budgeted $5 million for the buildings’ demolition following this summer’s beach season. At the same time, the demolition of these buildings threatens the sense of protection and safety we access at Riis.
The land is currently owned by the NYC Health & Hospitals Corporation and its deed states that the site may only be used as a public health facility or park, but exactly what that will look like is undecided. Ceyenne Doroshow, founder of GLITS, Inc., envisions the beach being landmarked and the ex-hospital site being converted into a land trust and programmed to meet queer and trans people’s holistic health needs. We are organizing alongside her vision by demanding that the site continues to protect what is, for many of us, the only beach in NYC where we are safe and free enough to rest and dream together.