Rockaway Beach, Queens: Wikis


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Rockaway Beach (Queens, New York)
ZIP Code 11693
Population (2000)
Demographics White
Median income $37,248
Source: U.S. Census, Record Information Services
Rockaway Beach, NY

Rockaway Beach is a neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens. It is located on the South Shore of Long Island. The neighborhood is bounded by Arverne to the east and Rockaway Park to the west. It is named for Rockaway Beach, which is the largest urban beach in the United States, stretching for miles along the Rockaway Peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean.[1] The beach is run and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Rockaway Beach was once known as the "Irish Riviera" because of the large Irish American population in the area.[2] As of the United States Census, 2000, 25.4% of residents in ZIP code 11693 identified themselves as having Irish ancestry.[3] As of January 1, 2007, the community's total population has reached to over 19,000 people making it the third most populated neighborhood on the peninsula.[4][5]


Early history

What is now Rockaway Beach used to be made up of two different villages, Holland and Hammels. In 1857, Michael P. Holland had purchased land and named the area after himself. Soon after, Louis Hammel, an immigrant from Germany bought a tract of land just east of Holland. In 1878 he decided to give portions of his land to the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Railroad in order to build a railroad station for the peninsula. The area around it became collectively known as "Hammels". In 1897 it merged with Holland and became known as the Village of Rockaway Beach. One year later, it was incorporated into the City of Greater New York and became part of the newly formed borough of Queens. However, the neighborhood, along with the eastern communities of Arverne and Far Rockaway tried to secede from the city several times. In 1915 and 1917, a bill approving the secession passed in the legislature but was vetoed by the mayor at the time, John Purroy Mitchel.[6]

In the early 1900s, the newly built railroad station opened up the community and the rest of the peninsula to a broad range of the population. The rich and wealthy no longer had a monopoly on the peninsula as various amusement parks, stores, and resort hotels attracted people from all over the city to spend the day or a whole summer there. Much of the area was developed by James S. Remsen and William Wainwright. In this era, it became known as "New York's Playground". Rockaway's famous amusement park, Rockaways' Playland, was built in 1901 and quickly became a major attraction for people around the region. The park was grandiose for its time. One of its most popular attractions, the Atom Smasher roller coaster, would be featured in the beginning of This is Cinerama, a pre-IMAX type movie, in 1952.[7] An Olympic-size pool, and a million dollar midway also were built within the amusement park. It would serve the community for over eighty years.[8]


In the 1930s, Robert Moses came to power as New York City's Parks Commissioner and his extensive road and transportation projects were both a benefit and disaster for the neighborhood. During his time as commissioner, Moses had ordered the construction of the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. The bridges were completed in 1937 and 1939 respectively. The Marine Parkway Bridge was built further west on the peninsula between Jacob Riis Park and Breezy Point linking the isolated communities to Brooklyn. The Cross Bay Bridge landed in the middle of the neighborhood of Rockaway Beach.[9]

The new bridge made the community the peninsula's gateway to Queens as it provided the only direct car access to the borough. The construction of the two bridges started to transform the neighborhood and the rest of the peninsula into a more year-round residential area or commuter town as people had a more convenient way to travel to and from work. The completion of the elevated subway line, improvements to the beach and boardwalk also brought an increase to Rockaway's permanent residents.

Although the bridges were intended to improve the Rockaways, Moses' other projects both directly and indirectly hurt the community. One such failed project was the planned construction of the Shore Front Parkway in the 1950s and 1960s. Wanting to connect Staten Island to the Hamptons, Moses focused on making a highway through the Rockaway Peninsula. His idea was to connect the Marine Parkway Bridge with that of the Atlantic Beach Bridge which connected the Rockaway Peninsula to Nassau County. The plan would also provide an extension midway through to include the Cross Bay Bridge. Many feared that a such an extensive project would do more harm to the peninsula than good and pointed to the community displacement that had happened in the South Bronx because of Moses' roadway construction [10]

Although Moses never got to make his highway, he did leave his mark. A piece of the planned parkway that ran west to east in the Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach neighborhoods was constructed and opened in 1939. Houses were literally cut in half in order to build the four-lane street. Some of these houses are still standing today. The existing still unfinished street is locally known as the "road from nowhere to nowhere" because it does not have any relevant connections to any other area or highway.[11]

Hammel Houses

Robert Moses' construction of other recreational areas and facilities, such as the Coney Island Aquarium and Jones Beach State Park indirectly impacted the neighborhood as well. These more modern recreational facilities lured tourists and beachgoers away from the peninsula. With fewer customers, businesses and hotels closed, and by the 1950s, the area had fallen into economic decline. The transition from a summer vacationing area to a full-time residential neighborhood had taken its toll. In an effort to try and revitalize the neighborhood, the city constructed the Hammel Houses. This project would be one of the many so-called urban renewal efforts that dominated the community and much of its eastern neighbors in the last half of the 20th century. The New York City Housing Authority purchased the land in 1952 on the north side of the elevated track. In 1964, the Authority decided to demolish and rebuild the entire area to what it is today.[12]

In addition to the Hammel Houses, the Dayton Beach Park Cooperative was constructed on the south side of the community. The rectangular buildings, all of which are thirteen stories high, were placed in close proximity to the shoreline. The building project was completed by the end of the 1960s along with the similar looking Surfside Park Apartments and Dayton Towers West in nearby Rockaway Park. The buildings still dominate Rockaway Beach's skyline today, nestled between Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the north and Shore Front Parkway to the south.[13]


The neighborhood, like all of New York City, is served by the New York City Department of Education. Rockaway Beach residents are zoned to either:

There is no high school zoning, as all New York City residents who wish to attend a public high school must apply to high schools. There are no high schools within the boundaries of Rockaway Beach. However, nearby high schools include Far Rockaway High School, Scholars' Academy High School Beach Channel High School and Stella Maris High School, a private Catholic high school for girls.

Pop culture

  • Rockaway Beach is the subject of the classic 1977 Ramones song "Rockaway Beach".
  • Woody Allen's 1987 movie Radio Days was filmed on location in Rockaway Beach.[14]
  • Lily's Crossing, a book by Patricia Reilly Giff, takes place in Rockaway Beach during World War II.[15]
  • George Carlin has said that he was conceived at Curley's Hotel in Rockaway Beach.[16]
  • Rockaway Beach, along with its neighboring communities, is the setting for much of the FX show Rescue Me.[17]
  • referenced in the Dire Straits song Tunnel of Love.
  • In the *Seinfeld Episode "The Marine Biologist", Kramer mentions to George & Jerry he hit a 600 Titleist golf balls on Rockaway Beach into the ocean.


  1. ^ "Chill out this summer ... on an urban beach", The Vancouver Sun, June 2, 2007. "Rockaway Beach is the largest urban beach in the States."
  2. ^ "A Shore Thing: Mini guides to five waterfront neighborhoods worth your salt", The Village Voice, May 22, 2006. Accessed June 10, 2007. "There's more to Rockaway Beach than the 1977 Ramones song. A popular beach resort in the 1830s, the "Irish Riviera" was once a destination for sun worshippers from all over the country."
  3. ^ 11693 5-Digit ZCTA - Ancestry, United States Census Bureau. Accessed December 6, 2006.
  4. ^ LIPA Rockaway Peninsula Population Totals The Wave, accessed October 18, 2008
  5. ^ Rockaway Population Popping At Record PaceThe Wave, accessed October 18, 2008
  6. ^ The Rockaways, accessed December 6, 2006.
  7. ^ About: Theme Parks, accessed December 7, 2006
  8. ^ Rockaway..."place of waters bright", The Wave. Accessed December 6, 2006.
  9. ^ Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, Historical Overview, Accessed December 6, 2006.
  10. ^ An Oceanfront Parkway for the Rockaways, accessed December 6, 2006.
  11. ^ Shore Front Parkway and Its Results
  12. ^ Hammel Playground, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, accessed December 6, 2006.
  13. ^ Shore Front Parkway, Emporis. Accessed December 6, 2006.
  14. ^ IMDB: Radio Days
  15. ^ Lily's Crossing
  16. ^ George Carlin, Gambling Magazine. Accessed May 22, 2007. "Looking at Carlin's personally written timeline of his life, his mind was apparently conceived (and the rest of him, too) at Curley's Hotel in Rockaway Beach, N.Y., in August 1936."
  17. ^ ‘Rescue Me’ Highlights Rockaway In Premier Episode,The Wave, Rockaway's Local Newspaper, accessed October 17, 2008

External links

Coordinates: 40°35′12″N 73°48′41″W / 40.586712°N 73.811474°W / 40.586712; -73.811474



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