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Aerial view of Rockaway, Queens.
Another aerial view of the Rockaway Peninsula, when it gets dark

The Rockaway Peninsula, also known as The Rockaways, is the name of a peninsula of Long Island, most of which is located within the borough of Queens in New York City. A popular summer resort area since the 1830s, Rockaway — or, as it is informally known, "The Rockaways" — has become a mixture of lower, middle, and upper-class neighborhoods. Its remoteness from Manhattan has made it a popular retreat, but also has provided an out-of-the-way area to relocate communities destroyed by urban renewal. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 14.[1] As of January 1, 2007, the peninsula's total population is estimated to be just below 130,000.[2][3]

Rockaway is split between New York's 9th and 6th Congressional Districts with the 6th encompassing the easternmost portions of the peninsula and the 9th spanning the western end.


Early history

Rockaway is the large peninsula on the right, just to the southeast of Brooklyn, NY

What is now known as Rockaway was inhabited by the Lenape Native Americans, but sold to the Dutch by the Mohegan tribe along with most of Long Island in 1639[4], and to the British in 1685.[5] Finally the land was sold to Richard Cornell, who settled there.[6] The name "rockaway" is the later corruption of a Lenape language word that sounded phonetically something like "rack-a-wak-e", and referred to the area.

The village of Rockaway Park became incorporated into the City of Greater New York on January 1, 1898.

The playground of New York

Rockaway became a popular area for seaside hotels starting in the 1830s, and popularity grew with the coming of the Long Island Rail Road in the 1880s. The bungalow became the most popular type of housing during the summer months. Even today, some of these remain, converted to provide modern amenities, although the vast majority were razed in urban renewal during the 1960s.

In 1893, Hog Island, a resort known for entertaining Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall sank into the sea.[7] Located a few miles east of Breezy Point, and also known as Rockaway Island, the entire island disappeared during a storm. Plates, along with older artifacts still wash up along the shore of Rockaway Beach.[8]

Rockaways' Playland, a world renowned amusement park opened in 1901, and was a popular place for New York families until 1985 when insurance costs and competition from major regional parks made it impossible to continue operations.[9]

The completion of the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge in 1939 (at the center of the peninsula)[10] and the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in 1937 (at the western end of the peninsula)[11] increased the accessibility to Queens and Brooklyn, however, the development of Jones Beach by Robert Moses drew tourism away from both Coney Island and Rockaway Beach.

Today the area still draws crowds during the summer, with well-tended beaches. Jacob Riis Park and Fort Tilden can be found on the western end of the peninsula, part of the Gateway National Recreational Area created in 1972 as one of the first urban national parks. A long boardwalk and long sandy beaches make this a popular summer day trip for New York City residents. towards the western end of the boardwalk, several portions of the beach are fenced off to preserve the nesting habitat for several species of terns and plovers, making for a unique urban birdwatching locale.

Bedroom community

Residential buildings in Far Rockaway
The Beach in Rockaway, Queens.

With the advent of inexpensive travel, air-conditioning and the Interstate Highway system, Rockaway lost its luster as a recreation area, and development transformed much of it into residential communities.

The peninsula's main communities are Belle Harbor and Far Rockaway. Other important neighborhoods on the peninsula include Arverne, Neponsit, Rockaway Beach, Rockaway Park, Breezy Point and Edgemere. Broad Channel, located on its own island in Jamaica Bay between the peninsula and the mainland of Queens, is generally considered to be psychographically part of the Rockaways. The Rockaway area, including Broad Channel, is served by the IND Rockaway Line (A S) of the New York City Subway, although both lines run completely above ground locally, using tracks purchased from the Long Island Rail Road in the 1950s (until 1975, an additional fare was charged to passengers either boarding or departing the train at any of the Rockaway-area stations, including Broad Channel, if the trip originated or terminated outside the area).

In the years immediately following World War II, several public housing projects were built in the region, and these eventually became hotbeds of crime and related social pathologies. This provoked a backlash from some of the peninsula's more established residents (many of whom are of Irish Catholic ethnicity). A strong Jewish community (many of whose members are Sephardi Jews) also exists in the area south of Far Rockaway.

Redevelopment has started in some areas of the peninsula. Although plans including casinos, sports arenas, and various other real-estate projects had been proposed in the past many of those plans did not come to fruition due to either lack of funds, development stagnation, or resident resistance. However, in 2002, a "revival" began on the peninsula, as a new residential development plan started construction in a large vacant section between Rockaway Beach and Arverne. The new areas have become known as Arverne By the Sea[12] and Arverne East.[13]

The new development projects however, have sparked a new building boom in the neighboring communities. This has caused some concern and has led to various debates regarding development within those neighborhoods. The main problem has to do with Rockaway's zoning laws: those laws, decades old, cater to large multiple dwellings because of the hotels that had once existed in the area. This has led to construction of taller and wider buildings in areas that currently contain lower density housing. In response, some communities have approved rezoning plans for their neighborhoods in order to stop "out of character" development.[14]

Opponents also contend that due to the rapidly growing population[15], the current infrastructure is inadequate and that there are environmental issues to consider. Those in favor of the development, however, contend that the development will help spur economic development and that the infrastructure cannot be upgraded until the population has reached a more noticeable level. Furthermore some developers have questioned the legality of "down zoning".[16] On August 14, 2008, however, a drastic rezoning plan was approved by the New York City Council for five communities on the peninsula covering 280 blocks. The communities that were included are Rockaway Park, Rockaway Beach, Somerville, Edgemere, and Far Rockaway. The goal of the rezoning plan is to stop overdevelopment in these areas but at the same time allow growth within the context of the neighborhoods.[17]

Art and culture

The Rockaway Art's Council provides a wide range of events throughout the year. Two art groups in Rockaway,the Rockaway Theater Company and the Rockaway Artists' Alliance, hold most of their productions in Fort Tilden.

The Ramones song "Rockaway Beach" is probably the most common pop culture reference to this region, although Herman Melville refers to it in Moby-Dick. Woody Allen's Radio Days was filmed in Rockaway Park, with period facades and cars turning back the clock during the shoot. Denis Leary's hit TV series Rescue Me has filmed in many locations on the Rockaway Peninsula. In the Seinfeld episode "The Marine Biologist", Kramer suggests that George and Jerry accompany him to Rockaway to hit golf balls into the ocean. The title of Lawrence Ferlinghetti's book of poems, 'A Far Rockaway of the Heart' is a reference to the region.

Historical events

On June 6, 1993, a ship called the Golden Venture beached on the shore off Fort Tilden, located on the western half of the Rockaway Peninsula. The ship contained 296 Chinese illegal aliens including 13 crew members. Ten people drowned trying to reach the peninsula's shoreline.[18]

On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in the Rockaway neighborhood of Belle Harbor killing 265 people (260 on board the aircraft and 5 on the ground).




High schools

Other schools

  • St. Francis de Sales
  • St. Camillus
  • St. Rose of Lima
  • West End Temple
  • Yeshiva of Far Rockaway
  • Beth El Temple
  • P.S. 43
  • P.S. 104
  • P.S. 114
  • P.S. 225
  • M.S. 53
  • M.S. 183
  • Church Of God Christian Academy
  • St. Mary Star of the Sea
  • Scholars' Academy
  • Channel View School For Research

See also


  1. ^ Queens Community Boards, New York City. Accessed September 3, 2007.
  2. ^ LIPA Rockaway Peninsula Population Totals The Wave, accessed October 18, 2008
  3. ^ Rockaway Population Popping At Record PaceThe Wave, accessed October 18, 2008
  4. ^ Governor Kieft's Personal War, accessed November 28, 2006.
  5. ^ Matinecock Masonic Historical Society: History, accessed November 28, 2006
  6. ^ Rockaway..."place of waters bright", The Wave, accessed November 28, 2006
  7. ^ The Big One, New York Press, accessed October 18, 2008. "In the years after the Civil War, developers built saloons and bathhouses, and Hog Island became a sort of 1890s version of the Hamptons. During the summers, the city's Democratic bosses used Hog Island as a kind of outdoor annex of Tammany Hall."
  8. ^ The Big One, New York Press, accessed October 18, 2008. "In the dredged-up sand, Coch's students found hundreds of artifacts—plates, whiskey bottles, teapots, beer mugs, lumps of coal and, what proved to be the most telling clue of all, an old hurricane lamp."
  9. ^ Rockaway..."place of waters bright", The Wave. Accessed October 19, 2008.
  10. ^ Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, Historical Overview, Accessed October 19, 2008.
  11. ^ Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, Historical Overview, Accessed October 19, 2008.
  12. ^ Arverne by the Sea Website
  13. ^ Arverne East Website
  14. ^ Rockaway Park Votes 'Go' On Rezoning The Wave, accessed April 7, 2007.
  15. ^ Pop! Number of New Residents Surges The Wave, accessed April 7, 2007.
  16. ^ Rockaway Beach Downzone Debate Rages On The Wave, accessed April 7, 2007.
  17. ^ Rockaway Neighborhoods Rezoning New York City Department of City Planning
  18. ^ Stout, David. "Suspected Organizer of Golden Venture Operation Is Arrested", The New York Times, November 18, 1995. Accessed March 11, 2008.

Coordinates: 40°34′35″N 73°50′42″W / 40.576413°N 73.844948°W / 40.576413; -73.844948

External links


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