The Bronx Riviera

By the time I got to Orchard Beach, I was jet-lagged and needed a moment to adjust and cope with the environment. It took me almost two hours to get there from Brooklyn. I first got on the G train, then the blue line for a few stops, then hopped on the 4 uptown express train at Fulton Street to 125th street in Harlem, and then the 6 local train all the way up to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The ride was a bit lengthy, but got more entertaining once we reached the elevated tracks right after Hunts Point. From the window, public housing projects, tags, decade-old graffiti murals and highways defined the Bronx skyline. Once at the terminal station, I boarded a bus that picks up beach-goers at the intersection of Pelham Parkway and Bruckner Expressway. The crowded shuttle zigzagged an additional 10 minutes across New York City’s biggest park to finally drop us off at the seashore.

While New Yorkers have myriad beach options to choose from in Brooklyn, Queens,Long-Island and New Jersey, many Bronx inhabitants choose Orchard Beach due to its relatively convenient location. It’s the quickest way for them to access the sea, sand and sun. Just a bus ride away from the boiling and humid blocks of the borough, Orchard Beach is the only public beach in the Bronx. And for many families, it is the highlight of the hot summer season.

Back in the late 1930’s, infamous urban planner Robert Moses created this mile long artificial beach, originally named the “Bronx Riviera.” Although widely known as the latter, locals call it “Horse Shit Beach” or the “Puerto Rican Riviera.” Latinos affectionately refer to it as “Playa Chocha”, while New-Yorkers simply know it as “Ghetto Beach.” Orchard Beach is like nothing I’ve experienced before. While the beach may certainly lack proper facilities and the glamour of a “traditional Riviera” (whatever that means), the atmosphere, energy and people clearly compensate… particularly on Sundays or during long holiday weekends.

I arrived at Orchard Beach around 10:30AM on July 4th, and the place was already jam-packed. The best spots in the picnic area of the park were taken and grilled meat and sinsemilla filled the air with pleasing aromas. Families were playing dominos, while elderly visitors enjoyed the shade under massive trees where Puerto Ricans flags hung proudly: pa’que tu lo sepas. Adjacent to the overcrowded parking lot, ballers shouted and screamed during heated basketball and volleyball games.

The main promenade that runs parallel to the beach was filled with unassuming yet jovial, and admittedly loud, characters. This is where the action takes place, and where the people are on display. On section 7, next to the Cuban fast-food restaurant, old-timers chanted the romantic lyrics of their favorite salsa tunes coming out of the homemade ‘maleta boomboxes’. Dancers’ steps were guided by the additional layers of rhythm provided by congas, cowbell and güiro players jamming on the makeshift dance-floor. Teenagers displayed their acrobatics skills while others chatted up any unaccompanied girls who passed by.

A multitude of colorful parasols and extra-large coolers were scattered throughout the hot, crescent shaped white-sand strip, where loungers boasted bronzed, oily flesh adorned with tattoos, exuberant bikinis, flat-top sunglasses and other shiny accessories. Meanwhile, a horde of young lifeguards in bright orange swimsuits watched the kids playing in the water with nonchalance.

There is no bollocks nor hipster-coolness at Orchard Beach. Only raw people, genuine flavor and unbridled attitude. People go to Orchard beach to have fun and they look genuinely happy. Orchard Beach is one remaining enclave of the real New York, and there’s nothing better than the real New York during summer.

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

The Bronx Riveira

Make sure to listen to my salsa vieja playlist “Un Verano en Nueva York” for additional texture and immediate teleportation to the Bronx Riviera.

Agradecimiento especial a toda la gente del Bronx y de playa Orchard por su trato y sencillez.
Big-up to Randy Diaz , Kike and Libia for sharing their salsa expertise.

Also, make sure to check Wayne Lawrence‘s awesome work on Orchard Beach

More images on my flickr
Words, images and playlist by Stephane Missier aka Charles le Brigand

All rights reserved. Une production de Brigand © 2011

Comments
26 Responses to “The Bronx Riviera”
  1. Marco Walls says:

    CLAP CLAP CLAP
    My friend, was again you got me glued to the screen getting to know your bigger than real characters. Truly, your pictures are not only technically and photographically fine, but the story you tell in each is admirable. This series hava a very honest and humble backdrop that makes you being in front of them not as a photographer, but as family, giving us, the voyeuristic pleasure of seeing what we tend to avoid see. Bravo Carnal!

  2. Willy Lomola says:

    Fuck! This shit is really good, my friend. Always on the top! Love your work.

  3. Wonderful work!!! Love the title.

  4. Encore du beau boulot man, les photos sont terribles ! :)

  5. Love it! The pictures are technically perfect. The information about the experience is really interesting. But the most important thing is the spirit in the pictures, they really got me.
    Kisses from Uruguay!

  6. So cool beach styles….Great shots : )

  7. Toes says:

    Love it, you really captured the vibe, essence and culture of Orchard Beach.
    It’s another world there, far far from here.

    Great work.

  8. droldham says:

    outstanding!
    i love your bold and insightful work.
    -dro

  9. amy says:

    I just adore your work, I stumbled across your work/website somehow and glad i did. I truly enjoy reading and seeing you mind at work.

    Amy

  10. Claudia says:

    This was an excellent capturing of the vibe at Orchard Beach. What a beautiful and descriptive writer! I’ve been going there regularly since the 90s. If you can love the good things about the ghetto — the vibrance, sharing, excess, laughter, loud music, drinking, dancing, cultural pride — then you will find this place like no other. While lately and on and off thing, they have live salsa, merengue and bachata festivals on Sundays.These parties are off the chain! It’s truly unexplainable. Don’t try it if you can’t appreciate the ghetto. The people there are always so friendly and happy.. there to have a good time on a hot day.

  11. turboricua says:

    Buenísimo. ¡Saludos desde Puerto Rico!

  12. BREAK art/fashion/culture says:

    really enjoyed this post man-
    cheers-

  13. Paul says:

    Thanks for sharing and showing the beauty that still adorns Orchid Beach.

  14. Hi, I’ve enjoyed looking at your cool blog..Thanks for sharing it. I’m reaching out to let you know I will be exhibiting a series of Orchard Beach photos in a couple of months n El Barrio in Manhattan.

    The exhibit is going to create a multimedia space that brings the sights and sounds to the gallery and I’m looking for “Maletero” boombox systems to be part of it. It would be quite cool to include the work of any Maleteros you may know to experience the recreation of summer at Orchard Beach. The show is going to be called “Orchard Beach: The Nuyorican Bronx Riviera”.

    Here’s a sample: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artedelares/sets/72157627130003394/show/

    You can reach me here and on my cell….so give me a ring when you can! 917 463-8782
    See you at OB!
    Eliud

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. [...] This wonderful shot comes courtesy of charles le brigand and is part of his latest photo essay about Orchard Beach. Check it out! [...]

  2. [...] filed in Daily Buzz News on Jul.11, 2011 A coy gal partakes in patriotic festivities earlier this month at the “Bronx Riviera” aka “Playa Chocha” aka Orchard Beach. (Photo: Charles le Brigand) [...]

  3. [...] Posted by charleslebrigand on July 10, 2011 · 8 Comments [...]

  4. [...] Stephane Missier (blogosphere pseudonym - Charles le Brigand) is a Senior Account Planner at Saatchi X NY. He keeps a blog chronicling his passion for street photography and spends most of his free time riding around on his bicycle photographing NYC. He recently reached out to H/H with a new photo series called The Bronx Riviera . . . and it was too good not to share. Below is his take on the experience, as well as some photos from the series. Check out the entire series here. [...]

  5. The Bronx Riviera par Charles le brigand « Echoes of Concrete says:

    [...] Coup de chaud? Allons donc piquer une tête à Orchard Beach dans le Bronx… C’est Carlito Brigante qui conduit… Orchard Beach est à mille lieues de la superficialité des plages bobos de New York. Ici pas de “… [...]

  6. [...] By the time I got to Orchard Beach, I was jet-lagged and needed a moment to adjust and cope with the environment. It took me almost two hours to get there from Brooklyn. I first got on the G train, then the blue line for a few stops, then hopped on the 4 uptown express train at Fulton Street to 125th street in Harlem, and then the 6 local train all the way up to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The ride was a bit lengthy, but got more entertaining o … Read More [...]

  7. […] “By the time I got to Orchard Beach, I was jet-lagged and needed a moment to adjust and cope with the environment. It took me almost two hours to get there from Brooklyn. I first got on the G train, then the blue line for a few stops, then hopped on the 4 uptown express train at Fulton Street to 125th street in Harlem, and then the 6 local train all the way up to Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. The ride was a bit lengthy, but got more entertaining once we reached the elevated tracks right after Hunts Point. From the window, public housing projects, tags, decade-old graffiti murals and highways defined the Bronx skyline. Once at the terminal station, I boarded a bus that picks up beach-goers at the intersection of Pelham Parkway and Bruckner Expressway. The crowded shuttle zigzagged an additional 10 minutes across New York City’s biggest park to finally drop us off at the seashore. […]



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