Not everyone is willing to make the round-trip to Coney Island, Orchard Beach or our city’s other myriad summer escapes. The journey by subway, bus or car, schlepping provisions for a hard day’s leisure on your shoulders. Maybe you don’t have time for that, but you do have $200 and would rather go “glamping,” or glamorous camping.
That is the off-the-grid experience being offered for a limited time only starting later this week at the edge of Fort Tilden in the Rockaways. The immediate scenery might not be much to write home about: an overgrown soccer field, abandoned chapel, and a few rusty four-plank bleachers. But of course the ocean is a mere 90-second walk away, and thanks to the company Terra Glamping your night in the slightly rundown park will include “Safari style” tents, a queen-size memory-foam mattress, plus “fine linens, rugs, and furnishings,” according to the company’s website.
What the incoming glampers might not know: They’re not exactly pioneers in the area.
Before there was glamping, there was the cabana
“Glamping,” laughed John Donohue, standing around a bowl of chips and guacamole at the Breezy Point Surf Club, where members have been renting lockers, cabanettes and cabanas to get away from the summer heat for generations. The rentals are places to swim, baby-sit kids, cook dinner and barbecue, and generally have all the amenities of a beach camping trip that a luxury camp site might provide.
The club is one of a few such spots down the road from the glampers, featuring cabanas that can be tricked out as well as any tent, even if you can’t stay overnight.
“Another crazy idea out in Rockaway,” Donohue, 65, said of the glampers from the shade of his neighbor’s cabana. He considered the success of the concession stands that had opened in recent years in Jacob Riis Park down the shore, feeding “all the hipsters.” He said this as affectionately as possible. There are no hipsters at Breezy. “Give it a chance,” he decided. The glamping revolution could take off.
“We gonna go glamping?” he called over to his wife at a nearby cabana. “My wife’s very frugal,” he explained. The answer came back in the negative.
“I may try it,” said his neighbor, Andrew McCord, 51, a retired firefighter. “I only been coming here 70 years.” Maybe it would make a nice change.
Change doesn’t come much to Breezy Point and when it does it tends to be unwanted, like when Superstorm Sandy’s gale winds and floods filled some of the weathered white and blue cabanas in 2012, a loss that’s still smarting for many.
Everyone just wants a place to be on the beach
Questioned about the glamping last week, some members expressed a little apprehension over what would be an invasion of hipsters, yuppies, tree-huggers or Park Slope residents, pick your stereotype.
“They gotta be crazy,” said Kathy Johnson, a retired civil servant. She had concerns about “access” to their club — rates start around $4,000 for a cabana and members get access to the pool, the private beach and the pub. Would the glampers try to get day-passes within?
The other potential problem she noted: “safety.” Kids ran around untended among the rows; people rarely lock any doors. The mere mention of newcomers or outsiders can prompt a leery question mark: Johnson mentioned similar concerns about the potential for a homeless shelter nearby.
Tricia Davitt, 59, had a different way of describing the club’s fences and long tradition: the plot of land was large and quiet enough that kids could move freely and independently, or at least, think they’re independent. There’s room for them to tell secrets in the overgrown sandy sports fields and explore the beach while their parents play cards or just escape the heat, which is basically what any beachgoer or glamper is looking for. “That’s priceless,” Davitt said.
It’s hard to imagine a horde of glampers walking or hitchhiking down the road to Breezy too often, stumbling into their predecessors along the Atlantic. They’ll probably keep to themselves just like the Breezy Pointers do, separately enjoying the same strip of beach. And that memory foam.