Recently, I made the B-train trek to Brighton Beach on the south side of Brooklyn and found the open beach brimming with relaxing New Yorkers, all thought of work and conflict left behind in the concrete city. The beach is only a few blocks from the train stop; just follow the salt air and you’re there. Once you emerge from the urban jungle and get onto the boardwalk, the Atlantic pulls you into familiar childhood memories of days on sand, the smell of sunscreen, and eating ice cream.
People spill across the beach, which sprawls for almost a mile along the Brooklyn coast. Amid the oddly inspired clash of music and cultures, one thing was clear: Brighton Beach is a destination for all. Brooklyn families, Brooklyn teens, seniors, toddlers, tourists, and New Yorkers coexist peacefully beside the steady ocean rhythm.
[pullquote align=”right”]Brooklyn teens, families, and tourists coexist peacefully beside the steady ocean rhythm[/pullquote]Although the wind might sometimes pick up, brushing your cheeks and dusting your towel with sand, the breeze will be warm and soothing. True, the water is still cold enough to make your muscles tense up, but don’t let that keep you from dipping your feet in. And there are plenty of dry activities to do at the beaches in New York. Brighton Beach offers volleyball nets for the more athletically inclined, not to mention plenty of room for soccer or ultimate. Beach-goers do everything from people-watching to reading to tanning, and sometimes all at once. Relaxation is the real highlight here, but the beach also offers an opportunity for creativity outside the city.
Stretch out for some yoga and practice sun salutations, bring a stereo and spread the good vibes, build sandcastles with great big moats and bury some treasure—or your friends.
I would plan to leave a few hours before sunset, as the summer hasn’t peaked yet and the winds pick up as dusk begins to fall. Unless the day is scorchingly hot. But before you leave Brighton, check out the classic boardwalk and the surrounding streets. If you’re looking for student-friendly restaurant prices, it’s easy to lose yourself in Little Odessa, in the vibrant street scene and company of immigrant Russians. The neighborhood is perfect for family day-trips or day-long dates.
When I returned to my City Atlas desk the following day, I felt refreshed and revitalized. It helped to escape the grid for a while, to finally kick off my shoes and walk barefoot at the water’s edge. On the ride back to Manhattan, I had thought of our maps; a bit of sea level rise could put Brighton Beach underwater, and the tide could overflow the community of Little Odessa. To my surprise, that gives me greater determination in the other part of my life, to work on climate solutions.
For all climate warriors: if we don’t celebrate the lives we have, we can forget what we’re fighting for. Maybe global warming isn’t going to pause while we try to get policies through our government, but there is time if we need to take a day to stretch out our toes and clear our heads.
Because after soaking up the sun, I remember that I love what I’m doing. I’m fighting for invaluable moments like a day at the beach.