|Surf Beach at Beach 67th Street|
Rockaway beach was once a summer resort destination but like many summer getaways of the early 20th century it saw a decline after WWII when mass car ownership fueled an exodus from urban centers. Although, parts of Rockaway have remained a vibrant community with year round residents other parts of the peninsula suffered from urban decay. At its peak the boardwalk hosted amusement parks, food vendors and a summer bungalow community. More recently there has been a renewed public interest in Rockaway Beach and growing crowds of visitors are coming to the boardwalk, a wider range of food options are being offered and a growing community of surfers are visiting and moving to the area.
|Abandoned Basketball Courts|
|Rockaway's Forgotten Neighborhood Facing West|
|Rockaway's Forgotten Neighborhood Facing East|
|Rockaway Bungalow (Beach 24th Street)|
|Rockaway Beach Bungalows (Beach 25th Street)|
There were many factors that may have led to the decline of the beach bungalow community like the closure of the main rail bridge after a fire during the 1950s, crime, redlining, cheaper transportation to destinations outside of the city and changing demographic trends. Whatever the reason, many people stopped coming to the Rockaways as a summer getaway and a large swath of bungalow property was abandoned and repurposed for public housing. Not winterized, the bungalows were inadequate as public housing, so their use by the city was short lived and most of the bungalows were demolished in the 1960s under commissioner Robert Moses to make way for apartment complexes, housing projects and the widening of Seagirt Boulevard. In place of much of the bungalow community, a derelict land is all that remains.
Although the Rockaway bungalow community has State Landmark Status, it is still vulnerable to demolition by developers and there has been a long running battle between developers and preservationists. In 2011 Bootleg Productions, the producers of Boardwalk Empire donated $10,000 to help preservationists like Richard George and the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association with preservation efforts for the remaining bungalows.
|Boardwalk Empire Set|
|Boardwalk Empire Set|
|Postcard from Rockaways' Playland|
Although Rockaways' Playland (formerly located next to the beach between Beach 98th Street and Beach 97th Street) is the longest running and best known of the Rockaway amusement concessions, it was not the first. George C. Tilyou's Steeplechase Park and L.A. Thompson's, Thompson's Park preceded Rockaways' Playland. Both Tilyou and Thompson made names for themselves in the amusement industry. Tilyou was known for helping to make Coney Island one of the most famous amusement parks in the world and Thompson was known for his innovations related to roller coasters. Known by many as "the father of the modern coaster" he held numerous roller coaster patents and his company, "L.A. Thompson Scenic Rail Company" built 50 roller coasters in the United States. Among the various attractions of the two mens' parks were a fun-house, shooting gallery, ski-ball, a two story bathhouse, and the Gravity Wonder (or "Hurricane") roller coaster.
Eight years after Thompson's death Thompson's Park was sold to a company that added an arena, gymnasium and olympic size swimming pool, as well as other upgrades to the park and reopened it as Rockaways' Playland on May 30th, 1928. The arena was used for boxing matches and circus performances; the pool was once used for international olympic tryouts for female swimmers. Over the years the amusement park was renovated, rides were added and additional transportation options to get the park were offered; however, by the 1970s park attendance was declining. After 86 years of operation, Rockaways' Playland closed its doors for the season in 1985 never to reopen again.
|Rockaway Boardwalk (2 Weeks after Hurricane Sandy)|
|Street Next to Boardwalk (2 Weeks after Hurricane Sandy)|
- "Far Rockaway Beachside Bungalows" A Guide to Historic New York City Neighborhoods Historic Districts Council.
- Laterman, Kaya "In Far Rockaway, Recognition for Bungalows" Wall Street Journal. Online. 28 January, 2013.
- "Hamilton, William L "Last Stand for a Bungalow Backwater" New York Times. Online. 23, October 2003.
- Gottlock, Barbara & Wesley Lost Amusement Parks of New York City. Charleston, South Carolina: The History Press, 2013.