Copyright Vivian R. Carter 2009

When I first arrived in NYC in 1979, I began to learn the wonders of Yiddish from this “nice Jewish boy” I had planned to marry.  Although that union never occurred, I decided to stay in the city and so, Yiddish expressions have become a part of my vernacular.  Oy vey says so much.  It says: “what was I thinking?”  It shouts: “you must be kidding!”  And who could resist the rhyme of “Oy Vey, Rockaway?”

The Rockaway Peninsula is a lovely, fascinating, frustrating place to live.  Buy a house, become a block captain of the homeowner’s association, bear some children, join the PTA, and before you know it, you’re in the thick of it.  Oy vey, Rockaway!
There is beauty, even splendor, in Rockaway’s natural world, but there is also dysfunction in many important aspects of civic life.  Getting to know and understand this place is like peeling an onion.  After 20 years, I feel like I’ve only gotten down to two or three layers of the onion.  Oy vey, indeed!

23 Responses to About

  1. Rebekkah says:

    Rockaway is indeed a beautiful “nature land” with equally beautiful, fascinating and talented people. I’ve lived in Rockaway for only five years and have made some of the best friends of my life, have a home church and feel compelled to get involved in the improvement and development of our public schools, specifically. There is such a complexity here as you described. You love this place looking out the calm bay or crashing ocean waves, and cringe at the abandoned lots serving as dumping grounds. I think it’s time that we begin discussing these complexities as a community, and plan for a Rockaway we can all be proud to have had a hand in making all that it should be for today and generations to come.

    • rockviv says:

      I enjoyed reading your comments. I know many families in the community were blessed that you volunteered your time and years of teaching expertise this past summer with the vacation bible school at First Congregational. Good luck with the One World, One Heart Early Childhood Learning Center. You are right–WE are the change!

  2. Gary Gorman says:

    In the late 1950’s probably in 59 when I was 9 my Aunt Florence and Uncle Tom Hickey had a bungalow in the Rockaways. We thought they were rich. It was only for the summer but it sure beat Coney Island beaches and swimming off the piers in Red Hook. When I got older 16 or 17 we snuck into the bars in the Rockaways- McMans, McGuires and Fitzgerald’s. Ah those summer nights……. We even met girls from the Irish Rivera – Breezy Point. And now my 2 of my kids and their spouses and kids leave their homes in Marine Park and have Cabanas in Breezy. The allure of the Rockaways continue.

    • rockviv says:

      Thanks for relating your colorful memories of old Rockaway. Do you remember what street your relatives’ bungalow was near? You’re probably talking Seaside (102nd to 108th), judging from the reference to McGuire’s, but I hear similar stories about Marcel’s Court, which was just west of the Crossbay Bridge over by Beach Channel H.S.. I’ve heard great stories like this from out-of-town friends over the years, many of whom remember summers in Rockaway fondly. I’ve found that at any given party with at least 15 people, if you say you’re from Rockaway there is always at least one person with a great summer story from childhood to tell. Although a lot of that communal, bungalow court culture is gone now, the Rockaway formula for success is still simple–water, sand, sun. Add people and maybe, a few beverages. Shake well. Enjoy.

  3. Kate says:

    I just discovered your website and found it both fun and informative.
    Being a relative newcomer to Rockaway….my husband and I bought our house in Rock Park four years ago, I now know of the elation as well as the frustration of Rockaway living. Numerous people have asked what brought us to Rockaway??
    I answer that I have wonderful memories of experiences during summer vacations here in Rockapolco with my parents and four siblings(circa 1970’s) …we would actually cry when the inevitable day came when we had to leave our beautiful ocean to travel back to “the city”.
    Being a full time resident now and facing the frustrations of everyday life , I find it absolutely shocking just how underserved Rockaway is in sooo many public areas…but especially so in regards to mass transit/public transportation.
    Please continue to keep us informed….as I see you do….. of all meetings, groups,etc that are dealing with these problems.
    Can you suggest any ways that an average Rock resident can get involved to attempt to correct this severe lack of attention and under representation that the Rock peninsula suffers? How do we get the attention of politicians who seem to ignore this wonderful peninsula?
    Rockaway is still a beautiful place…. but now that I am a full time resident I see there is lots of room for improvement.
    We Rock residents should all step up to the plate.
    Thanks for your informative site.

    • rockviv says:


      Thanks so much for your compliments on my blog. I’m always curious how people manage to find it; if you could let me know, that would be great! I will add you to my email group and soon will be sending out a feed each time I add a new entry. People on the peninsula are hungry for information, and I plan to provide it! Word Press selected “Oy Vey Rockaway” as a featured arts & entertainment site this week, so the word is spreading.

      As to getting more involved, I think there are a lot of great ways to do that. Lately, there are so many groups springing into action, that it’s a bit confusing to “figure out the teams without a scorecard.” I’m planning to blog on that topic on Monday. Since you live in Rockaway Park and mentioned an interest in transportation issues, it’s fortunate that one of the more dynamic civic groups in the area, My Rock Park (formerly Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents), has a big interest in buses, trains, and ferries. In fact, the majority of the folks from the peninsula who ventured out to the citywide planning meetings over the past summer are MRP activists. I’ll be doing a new blog entry today about the candidate forum MRP sponsored last evening, which was quite successful, even in the midst of a Nor’easter.

      Civic activism in Rockaway Park makes a great story. To this day, I believe we have more than our share of colorful neighbors who keep things interesting! There were a few sublime characters who tried to shake things up in the past, resulting in a battle for control when the Rockaway Park civic group was in its infancy in the 1990’s, before I became involved drafting the first legal bylaws for the group in 2002. It was a real soap opera, I have been told! It has evolved into a pretty savvy group. Welcome to Rockaway Park, and hopefully you’ll visit MyRockPark.org, and decide to join. I look forward to meeting you at a local civic meeting soon.

      Vivian Carter

  4. Pingback: Oy Vey Rockaway Stats–2010 in review | Oy Vey Rockaway

  5. Vivian,
    I just came across this site. Excellent job. Your dedication to the Rockaway community is truly commendable. Thank you so much for your continued support of The Rockaway Jetty.

    Keep up the great work.

    Jonathan O’Leary Jr.

    • rockviv says:

      Thanks for the encouragement. I’m happy to return the compliment to you and to the Rockaway Jetty organization, the wonderful charitable group you helped form with your Rockaway friends and business associates. I look forward to supporting the Rockaway Jetty in the future!

  6. Fantastic site! I can’t believe I’m only finding this now. Bravo on the work you’ve done.

    Two suggestions:

    1) Add a “Contact me” button! I was hoping to e-mail you directly.
    2) Allow readers to subscribe by e-mail. Feedburner and many others offer free services to turn your RSS feed into a newsletter that automatically sends daily (or however often you post). It makes those who don’t know or don’t like RSS to follow you easily. I know I’d subscribe!

    • rockviv says:

      Thanks for the comment and compliment! I do my best to gather and package interesting and colorful stories about the people and places of Rockaway each week! Keep up the great work with Sheepshead Bites!

  7. John says:

    Vivian, you have a very informative blog. My family (first my grandmother’s cousin and his wife then my grandmother) was in the rooming house business on Oceanus Avenue/Beach 91st Street from the time the American Expeditionary Force left for France until early 2003.

    The Rynn House was located at 188 Beach 91st Street with a satellite down the block at 126 Beach 91st Street. During Prohibition Stephen Rynn did a brisk trade in the boiler room. If you want some more details keep in touch at the address posted above.

    • rockviv says:

      It was great to read your comment providing historical facts about Rockaway Beach, and even better to run into you this morning on Beach 91 Street! The story about your grandmother and the rooming houses on Oceanus Avenue is intriguing. Thanks for pointing out the original site of the hotel run by the Holland family, which I have read was called the “Carhart Hotel” when Michael P. Holland purchased it. I just received an e-mail this week from Vera Prough, a descendant of William Holland, who ran a grocery store on the Boulevard near Beach 90 Street in the late 1890’s-early 1900’s. I am very jazzed to be compiling all of these stories and many great photos into an “Images of America” book. Thanks so much!

  8. Kathleen MacDonald says:

    Hi Vivian,
    I am so glad I have found your blog !! I look foward to having a chance to chat with you about some ideas relating to local environmental issues. I spent a week in Baltimore studying the Chesepeake Bay watershed, and I guess you can say, I had an “Aha” moment.

    Perhaps when you have time we can meet at the circle?

    Kathy MacDonald (a/k/a KMAC)

    • rockviv says:


      Great to hear from you! Your educational excursion to the Chesapeake sounds like it was worthwhile. I had a similar “AHA” experience when I sailed on the Clearwater for a week last October. Look forward to getting together with you to talk about education projects…


  9. Jennifer Feil says:

    Vivian, I’m a kayaking comrade at Sebago, not sure if you remember me. I was looking for “Vandalia Dunes” (just learned about them today) and your blog was the first thing I read. The loss of the dunes is heartbreaking. This blog is fascinating! I’ve only started to read but look forward to much more. See you at Sebago or on the water.

    • rockviv says:

      Of course I remember chatting in the garden at Sebago. It was probably two summers ago. I recall you are a teacher. I am so happy you enjoyed reading my blog and if you enjoy local history, you can check out my Arcadia book when it’s published in June 2012. I really try to focus on encouraging civic involvement and support for ecology causes, the arts, and literacy. I hope to make it for the walk with the students from “Rock the Boat” at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Friday. Maybe I will see you there, or over at the club for the Open House. Vivian Carter

  10. Ken R says:

    Many years ago, I lived in the apartment house on Beach 139 Street and at 447 Beach 127 Street. Can anyone tell me what happened to those structures in the storm? Thank you

    • rockviv says:

      Hello, and sorry for the delay. Wow, just got internet back on yesterday. Webmail wasn’t working so great, especially the last few days.
      I just visited the co-op on Beach 139th yesterday (the one facing the bay?) It sustained water damage to the first floor, and so the Buildings Department had put a yellow sticker on it. But the building is still looking quite good. I also went past 447 Beach 127 Street, and you couldn’t see any serious outer damage. Sometimes it’s hard to tell how much interior flooding occurred. For instance, I learned on Monday that the stores on the beach block of Beach 116 Street were not flooded nearly as bad as the ones on the block between Newport and Rock. Bch Blvd. It seems that the pattern was true for a lot of the West End–beach block losses, through catastrophic if your home faced the ocean, were less severe on the rest of the blocks than they were on the 200 and 400 blocks (which got hit by bay flooding from storm sewers, as well).
      Thanks for your interest in my blog.
      Rock Viv

  11. John Duggan says:

    I also found your blog , wishing you much success with it.

  12. Vera P says:

    I found some great old group photos of Far Rockaway in my grandmother, Fannie Holland Warner’s photos. I’d love to share them with you. I can only identify my grandmother in one and the rest are a mystery. If you send me your e-mail again, I will send them to you!

    • rockviv says:

      Great to receive your comment and the photos are amazing! I only wish they could have made it into my book. I’ve replied by email and will try to help unravel some mysteries, if possible.

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