CONEY ISLAND — New York City will officially open all of its beaches this weekend, nearly seven months after Hurricane Sandy wreaked carnage on the shoreline.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg visited Coney Island Friday to launch the summer season — and celebrate recovering from the storm.
"A few months ago our region's beaches, places that make us think of fun and family gathering, were scenes of tragic devastation left by Hurricane Sandy," Bloomberg said.
"In the wake of that storm, we promised New Yorkers that no matter what it takes, every one of our city's beaches would be open on Memorial Day. And today, I'm very excited to make it official."
The storm decimated the shoreline and beachfront communities in Staten Island, the Rockaways and Brooklyn. But Bloomberg said, as of 10 a.m, Saturday, swimmers will be welcome to go back into the water.
"Coney Island is looking better than ever," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "Let the word go out, very, very clearly to tourists and New Yorkers alike. America's playground is affordable, accessible and the most exciting in America."
Shortly after the storm hit in October, workers from the Department of Parks and Recreation embarked on a nearly $270 million restoration program, Bloomberg said.
"Sandy dealt our city's beaches a devastating blow," he said. "It did take a tremendous amount of work to get them where they are today."
The storm displaced more than 185,000 cubic yards of sand from the city's beaches, and cleanup workers removed over 40,000 cubic yards of debris from them, enough to fill 12 Olympic-sized swimming pools, Bloomberg said.
The beaches and boardwalks are still not fully rebuilt, and work will continue to replace displaced sand, repaired shorefront parks and playgrounds and replace nearly five miles of damaged boardwalk citywide.
Aside from restoring sand levels and rebuilding boardwalks, Bloomberg said new resiliency measures will also be added to the beaches to make them stronger.
"Our number one priority, however, in all of this work is protecting beach communities," he said.
The Army Corps. of Engineers will also add storm protection measures, like beach berms, to Rockaway Beach, South Beach, Cedar Grove Beach and New Dorp Beach during the summer.
New, storm resistant public restrooms in Coney Island, Brighton Beach and Rockaway Beach were also installed in time for this weekend's opening, and similar buildings will be added to Staten Island beaches in the next few weeks.
The city also opened Coney Island's Steeplechase Plaza with the restored B&B Carousel on Friday, and students from Brooklyn's P.S. 90 were on hand to have its inaugural ride.
In 2005, the carrousel pieces were nearly sold, but the city stepped in to save it and spent six years restoring the 50 hand-carved horses.
"This is going to be great for kids of all ages," Markowitz said, "and a great new addition to Coney Island."