Gilt City Offers Paid Tour of Rockaway Shacks On Sandy Anniversary

By Katie Honan on September 12, 2013 7:25am 

 Tickets for Archtober went on sale Wednesday on Gilt City, an online retailer, and include a tour of problematic lifeguard shacks on Rockaway Beach.
Tickets for Archtober went on sale Wednesday on Gilt City, an online retailer, and include a tour of problematic lifeguard shacks on Rockaway Beach.
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Gilt City

NEW YORK — The Statue of Liberty, the Park Avenue Armory and...a lifeguard shack?

A luxury retail website is hawking tickets for guided tours of the new multimillion dollar Rockaway Beach lifeguard stations on the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, raising eyebrows among some residents of the peninsula that was devastated by the storm.

Tickets for the third annual Archtober, a monthlong celebration of architecture and design sponsored by organizations including the American Institute of Architects, went on sale Wednesday on Gilt City and include a tour of the lifeguard stations at either Beach 59th or Beach 32nd street. 

The modular units, which began rusting and leaking just months after being installed, are featured in the tour options alongside historic buildings and structures including the Van Cortlandt House in The Bronx, the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.

According to Gilt City, the tour promises to provide a "in-depth look at both the contemporary and iconic buildings of the city."

"You'll gain insight into some of the most beloved buildings in town."

Designed by acclaimed architect Jim Garrison, the structures, which were placed in Brooklyn and Staten Island beaches as well, were designed as modular units to speed up installation. They were also raised above flood level to "resist destruction by future storms," according to the AIA's website.

For $11, Gilt City members will get two passes to see the stainless steel lifeguard shacks (the price on the AIA's website is $10), which feature men's and women's locker rooms, a small kitchen and two rooms overlooking the water. Ten of them in the city serve as public bathrooms.

"Building of the Day highlights the rebuilding effort on the part of the New York City Parks Department and the Department of Design and Construction to rebuild New York beaches with structures built to meet FEMA standards," the blurb on the AIA site reads. 

The executive director of the AIANY, Rick Bell, FAIA, called the new buildings "smart and forward thinking."

“AIANY supports these projects that adhere with our own 'Post-Sandy Initiative' report recommendations on building back better so New York can withstand future climate-related events," he said.

The hourlong tour on Oct. 29 — the anniversary of the storm — will be guided by Garrison, who has worked on several high-profile and environmentally friendly projects, as well as Kevin Quinn, the director of architecture for the Parks Department. It is open to anyone.

But guests may get a little more than they bargained for.

In August, DNAinfo New York reported on the deteriorating condition of some of the 35 bathrooms and lifeguard stations, which were installed along city beaches after Hurricane Sandy at a cost of $105 million.

Railings on some of the structures were held together with duct tape, and lifeguards who used the units reported leaks. The temporary doors on both the bathrooms and lifeguard stations were rusting, and the exterior of the shacks also showed rust.

The DDC said the windows and doors installed in the units were temporary in order to get the "essential lifeguard and comfort stations ready for the beach season."

They also said the exterior of the structures would get scrubbed and cleaned, and said the particles on the outside of the unit were dirt, not rust.

A lifeguard who asked not to be identified and who spent part of the summer working in an unfinished shack said she was surprised the city would be showing the buildings off.

"I really think that if I were the city of New York, I would not be promoting these at this time," she said.

"I looks like an overspent monstrosity. Looking at them makes me cringe."

The timing also drew some criticism.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who represents the peninsula and lives in Far Rockaway, called the tour "despicable," especially since it's being presented on the anniversary of the hurricane.

"They're making a profit on a project that was forced down the community's throat, disguised as recovery," Goldfeder said.

"It's disgusting. It's just another slap in the face to a community that has struggled to recover."

Goldfeder said he will do everything he can to stop the tour from happening.

The DDC said last month they would begin construction to complete the structures after Labor Day.

They did not respond to calls and emails for details on the progress of the beachside buildings.

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