Not to be confused with posh South Beach, Miami, South Beach is a beachside town in Staten Island with not as much glamour but way more charm.
The main highlight of South Beach is undeniably the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Boardwalk. This two mile boardwalk is a favorite for runners and water enthusiasts alike, as several kayak and canoe launch sites accent the boardwalk. The boardwalk sadly shut down during the Depression, but was reopened less than a decade later with the help of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his New Deal. The city takes its beach seriously- since just 1995, the city has put over 20 million dollars into the boardwalk.
South Beach used to be a favorite attraction for a different reason- in 1906, the Happy Land amusement park opened, rivaling Coney Island. The park featured a Ferris wheel, roller coaster, vaudeville theater, a shooting range, and a Japanese tea garden. It also designated a whole section of the park as “The Carnival of Venice,” based upon the romantic Italian island. The Carnival evoked the warmth and vibrancy of Italy with Gondola rides.
Unfortunately, a fire ravaged the park in 1917 and again in 1929, and the park suffered financially until it was demolished in 1955.
A cool place to visit at the south end of the boardwalk is Freedom Circle, a memorial that pays tribute to all of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed their lives for our country. The circle includes different flags from each point of American history. From 1885 through 1953, the Staten Island Rapid Transit ended its line at South Beach, a testament to the beach’s popularity.
Unfortunately, South Beach was delivered a devastating blow by Hurricane Sandy, when waters knocked out homes, shops and businesses, and even took two dozen victims with it.
But Sandy also brought out the cohesive Staten Island community spirit. Since Sandy, the city has been dedicated to bringing back the hard-hit town, and this past October, a march took place from South Beach to Midland Beach, with over 200 people commemorating those who lost their lives in the storm. South Beach’s easy access to the Verrazano Bridge is almost astonishing- in a half an hour, one can go from a run on the beach to the towering buildings of Manhattan’s financial district.
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