I was struck with nostalgia when I saw an ad in my newspapers for Silver Gull Beach Club, so naturally I called and asked to speak to the owner. To my delight it was a new person whose family-owned company had signed a 15-year contract with the National Parks Department to run both Silver Gull and Breezy Point Beach Clubs. My parents had been members of the Silver Gull Club for many years decades ago and I have so many sweet memories. So I wanted to see how it looked now.
On a cloudy day,threatening with rain, I met the stunning, powerful Tanya Ortega, whose family had just signed the contract to run the clubs only a mile from the Marine Park Bridge in Breezy Point.
She gave me a tour of the facility and showed me the many improvements her company is making as they feverishly get ready for the new season. Sitting on the soft Rockaway beach I tried to remember times spent in my parents’ cabana.
Then we rode over to Breezy Point Club and I was struck by how stunning the newly-painted white-washed cabanas looked, more like the ones on Westhampton Beach.
It looks like new life is being given to these memorable sites. I shut my eyes and could see the softball teams playing, the volleyball courts filled with competitors and the bar double deep with laughing members taking a break from life.
What’s unique about both clubs is the multiple generations who have been here for decades, with memories built on summer days and nights together.
It made me so happy to see that the glory days of these clubs are coming back under the new leadership of the Ortega Family Enterprises.
The power of an idea
I have always admired entrepreneurs and creators and Long Island City is a hub for both.
Since we opened our LIC Courier magazine, I’ve gotten to know many of the art groups and the artists who live and work here. A leader in the community is Richard Mazda, who for the second year, was the catalyst for organizing “Open Studios” for the artists in L.I.C. He is the brains behind The Secret Theatre on 23rd Street, a venue offering shows, improv classes and an acting academy for children.
He came up with the impressive goal of “bringing the world” to the remarkably-exploding arts scene in Long Island City. He has engaged our newspapers, developers, art studios, restaurants and business groups to make his dream a reality.
I visited the LIC Arts Open last weekend and visited my friend Margaret Scheffs, creator of the baby bedding company Blauen. She had a gathering of artists in her studio as part of the Open festival.
From her space I went across the street to the Diego Salazar art studios. Many of the artists from the building on 22nd Street brought their work to his ground floor space. I fell in love with a sculpture of a naked lady with attitude by Orly Shiv. We negotiated over two days and I bought it.
But in between I visited a remarkable private school for 29 students run by another creator and entrepreneur, Francis Mechner, head of the unique Queens Paideia School. He shared that, “L.I.C. is the perfect place for a school that has educational innovation as its driving force; we are able to integrate the arts because they are all around us…we can’t imagine being anywhere else.”
From the school I made my way to the western part of L.I.C. to visit my friend Tamar Hirschl, who recently rented studio space at 43-49 10th Street. She was participating in the Open Studio week and it gave me a good reason to visit. Tamar and I have been friends for many years, having met through her late husband Harold Snyder, who sat on the board of the Queens Museum with me.
Tamar has exhibited at many important art venues around the world and has her work owned by the Tel Aviv Museum, the Queens Museum by Bill and Hillary Clinton — and me — to name a few of her collectors. She works on canvas, sculpture, and now photography.
She is yet another creative mind adding to the brain trust of Long Island City, which is growing dramatically. Stay tuned!