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Bronx Riviera open for business

 

 Sunbathers soak it all in at Orchard Beach on Wednesday               Julio Martinez, 2, explores the mysteries of sand at Orchard Beach Julio Martinez, 2, explores the mysteries of sand at Orchard Beach.

With the lingering recession, hundreds of thousands of people will head for the “Bronx Riviera” instead, as Orchard Beach and other city beaches officially open this Memorial Day weekend.

“We think more people will do a ’staycation’ this summer,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, “so we’re expecting record numbers at beaches this year.”

Joined by about 100 Public School 86 students and local seniors, Benepe helped kick off the 2009 summer beach season yesterday with the ceremonial opening of Orchard Beach.

Starting Saturday, all city beaches will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Labor Day weekend.

“I’ll finally be out of school, and get to come here and have fun with my friends,” said Kassandra Rodriguez, 12.

“We have a great time,” said Nelson Colon, 12, who says he goes to Orchard Beach all the time with family. “I like that they have a lot of options too, like the basketball courts.”

The crescent-shaped beach on the Long Island Sound in Pelham Bay Park boasts 1.1 miles of sandy shoreline, playgrounds, picnic areas and basketball, handball, tennis and volleyball courts, as well as bike and hiking paths.

This summer, the city has rolled out several programs for beach goers, including a Saturday morning fitness program, a children’s story telling hour, walks led by park rangers and a basketball tournament.

“Some people don’t want to go in the water or lay on the sand all day, so for them we have some nontraditional things to do,” said Benepe.

Not all Bronxites waited until Memorial Day weekend.

Dozens lay on the powdery sand soaking up the rays, though most stayed clear of the chilly water.

Raul De Jesus, 44, of Bronx Park South, was enjoying his day off with his 1-year-old daughter, Summer.

“I come here all the time. I just like the atmosphere, the people, the music. It’s nice.”

Further down the beach, Jamie and Julio Martinez of Fordham were busy flying kites with their sons, Julio Jr., 2, and Angel, 4.

It was the family’s first time hanging out at Orchard Beach.

“I like it here. It’s clean and I like that they have a playground for the kids,” said Jamie Martinez, 23. “We’ll definitely be back.”

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