New Yorkers have an uncanny knack for taking locations that aren't beaches and, by the sheer power of will, or the simple addition of some sand, making them so. Take, for example, Hot Karl Beach, a long-deserted canvas of sand at a construction site (soon to house Karl Fischer-designed Brooklyn rental 101 Bedford) in which water just happened to pool. And ta-da, a nickname was born. Construction sites in Williamsburg, in fact, have long proved fertile ground for recreational pop-ups. On the site of the future Domino development along the waterfront is now a land o' fun called Havemeyer Park that at present contains a bike course, urban farm, and a yoga field. Down the line, it'll expand to include a lawns and a launch for kayaks. But wait, it gets better.
The Beekman Beer Garden Beach Club, pictured above, is one of those totally fratty, totally tacky watering holes where DJs spin to crowds in cut-off shorts and belly-baring tops. But hey, there's sand, so if you want to dump it out of your shoes at the end of the night, head to the Seaport and fill 'em on up. For a more chill scene, check out Brooklyn Surf Bar over in Williamsburg, which has sand, surfboards as decor, and a vibe that says, "So what if we're in the middle of a city? Let's hit the waves, dude!"
Then there's one of our favorite hidden gems, the Hudson River Beach Volleyball Courts and Cafe, inside Riverside Park at 103rd Street. Descend down twin staircases from the eatery to the generous rectangular expanse of sand below, where you can swing from metal rings or play a rousing match of beach volleyball. Sure, your view is the West Side Highway and the Hudson River beyond instead of some idyllic sea, but this place is hardly ever crowded.
It's not just sand that makes New Yorkers want to shed their clothes and dive in. No, they do that just about anywhere. But watch out, because in Stuy Town residents had a hissy earlier this year over nude(ish) sunbathers in their complex, and some Brooklynites go for a swim in the Prospect Park lake (ew) and Grand Army Plaza's fountain (double ew). From PDA to letting it all hang out in the name of a tan on the Great Lawn or Brooklyn Bridge Park, denizens tend to treat almost any public place like their own backyard beach, or sun-loving nudist colony. Some up the ew factor even further by kayaking in the Gowanus Canal. People, the Rockaways, or any moderately clean bodies of water, aren't that far away.
Last but not least, there's the Dead Horse Bay in Fort Tilden. New York Natives calls it a "semi-secret beach" "for all you antisocial urban explorers who are searching for a beach abandoned by man." The description continues: "Although this beach is completely covered in antique garbage and chopped up horse bones, the wild greenery surrounding the beach, the sounds of glass clinking beneath the waves, and the unique population of birds make this area a truly surreal spot." So, yeah. Just don't get cut by a broken glass bottle, and enjoy this historic wonderland of litter, where you're sure to find peace, quiet, and nary a frat guy.
A round-up of New York's best fake beaches wouldn't be complete without a nod to the now-defunct Water Taxi Beach, which started in Long Island City and spread its tentacles to Brooklyn and Governors Island before getting the shutter. We also bid farewell to the Lower East Side's timeshare backyard, Coney Island's Beer Island, and countless others. The drunken rowdiness they all spawned just has to find new makeshift beaches to take over.