ROCKAWAY BEACH — New Yorkers kicked off the unofficial start of summer by heading to the beach on Memorial Day, despite overcast skies and a chance of thunderstorms.
The city's public beaches officially opened for the season this weekend. At Rockaway Beach on Monday, early clouds and fog in the morning kept the crowds at bay but gave way to partial sun by the early afternoon, to the delight of beach-goers.
"It's good for us — we have room," said Ryszard Rogalewski, who was visiting the beach from his home in Maspeth and said he was glad to find the sands weren't crowded.
Kascia, whose family owns a home near the beach in Rockaway, watched as her 4-year-old son Julien frolicked in the still-chilly surf.
"He just loves the water. He doesn't care if it's cold," said Kascia, who declined to give her last name.
Dozens of surfers dotted the waters along the beach's surf spot between Beach 87th and Beach 92nd streets, including Karla Takahara, who was hopping on her board for the first time this year.
"It's good to be out — finally," she said. "The temperature's great."
Nearly 8 million people visited Rockaway Beach last year, according to the Parks Department.
The city has rebuilt much of the peninsula's boardwalk since Hurricane Sandy, though the final portion from Beach 108th to Beach 126th streets was delayed due to new crane safety regulations and is now expected to open in July.
Resident Derek Casey was at the beach Monday with his two young sons. He's one of the many Rockaway residents who were displaced by the 2012 storm, moving back to the neighborhood about two years later after rebuilding, he said.
"We appreciate every day at the beach," he said.