PHOTOGRAPHY BY GUSTAVO LOPES
Gustavo Lopes: Jacob Riis Beach
New York's most historical LGTBQ beach since the 1940s
Based on bare skin and skimpy clothing, the beach can be a major source of anxiety for some – LGBTQ people included. Lucky for any LGBTQ New Yorkers nervous about baring it all, Jacob Riis Park is a haven for carefree beach days. Located just beyond the Rockaway Inlet, Riis Park Beach has been, historically speaking, the most LGBTQ-focused spot for sunbathing and swimming since the 1940s. Recognized by the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Riis Park Beach is the place to see and be seen by queer-New York. If you’re looking for a relaxing, quiet place to read your book and have a nap, you may want to reconsider.
On the weekends, the sand is more like a giant blanket. Anyone and everyone who is queer (and really fun) in New York will shape up and ship out to get to, dare I say, the party. At Riis there will be music, there will be smoke, there are drinks, there is laughter. It is truly a one of a kind beach experience. Not to mention that the primarily gay area is in the easternmost section of the Riis Park, sanctioned off by a cliché jetty and set in front of an abandoned hospital. This, of course, adds to the lore.
Naturally, the location is photogenic and well documented. Photographers old and young alike have long brought their cameras along to photograph scenes at Riis. Gustavo Lopes, originally from Brazil, just wrapped up his second summer in New York. He’s been documenting his beach days there since his first visit last summer, taking the very crowded Q35 from Flatbush like so many do and decamping for the sun-drenched utopia.
“I believe we live in a society that threatens diversity daily,” he said. “And that’s a big part of the reason that makes Jacob Riis more than just a beach for me. It’s a place where people embrace and expose their bodies without being objectified. [Riis is] a piece of heaven; a bubble in New York where every kind of being different is celebrated.”
As we wave goodbye to summer from our apartment and office windows, Lopes’ photos are a cheerful reminder of the gaiety of the beach. It’s certainly hard to buckle down for a New York fall/winter, but at least we all have some place to look forward to every summer.