Inspired at the Laundromat

There they go again!  The unsung elves of our cherished local Rockaway Artists’Alliance have toiled to create inspiring public art in some of the most unexpected places.  Colorful laundry bags like beach balls on the shore.Discovering this kind of public art adds to the offbeat joy of living on the peninsula.

It's high Tide!Recently, I left a civic meeting at 9 p.m.  On the way home, possessed by a hankering for mint chocolate chip ice cream, I decided to stop at Carvel on Beach 116 Street.  I rarely visit the commercial strip at night, when most of the stores on the beach block are closed, and hence, dark.  So, on this visit, a storefront on the beach block that was open and illuminated came brightly into view—Four Sisters Laundromat (formerly known as ‘Rockawash’). I never do my laundry there, so I’ve passed by thousands of times during the day without ever looking inside.  What I saw on the walls drew me inside, and filled me with awe and amazement that it could exist in such a place—a beautifully detailed mural of the beach and bay front of the peninsula, created by local painter Geoff Rawling, stretches from end to end of the laundromat’s walls. The mural towers high above the washers and dryers, with bags and baskets of laundry and bottles of Laundromat signs float above beach volleyball scene.Tide strewn below, like so many colorful beach balls.  Thanks to my son, Robert, for snapping the cool panoramic image of the mural in the header photo.  The scene is so detailed that it even depicts the Doppler radar tower at Floyd Bennett Field, beach volleyball games in action, and the iconic floating artwork, The Dragonfly’s Banquet.  Only in Rockaway!

Geoff is a local treasure.  His art seems to be created out of an intense experience of observing people, places and events.  Many of his smaller, portable paintings are on display (and for sale) at Thai Rock Restaurant and Music House at Beach 92 Street and Beach Channel Drive.  Geoff has painted other murals in the Beach 116 business district, including one at Ciro’s Pizza and another at The Wharf Restaurant.  I’m sure there are others—feel free to conduct your own search.  Geoff’s website lists some of them, at

View of a jettyI never take for granted the fact that the proprietors on Beach 116 Street are a microcosm of many of the ethnic groups present in the borough of Queens. Every time I hear someone mention the words “mall” and “Rockaway” in the same sentence, I cringe.  We’d all like to see fewer underutilized or vacant buildings in the business district, but there is much unique vibrancy that should be preserved. Here’s a possible slogan for the Chamber of Commerce—“although our shopping area is small, there’s no ‘mall’ in it!”  In my view, that’s a good thing, but I know there are many who would disagree.  Some people just won’t be happy until every community in America has a Starbucks and a Gamestop to anchor the downtown business district.

Beautiful objects abound at The Beach GalleryIf you live in this area and snobbishness does not become you, there is much to like in and about Beach 116 Street.  Here’s a list of almost a dozen places I gravitate to. Although I used to work as an advertising representative for the local newspaper, ceaselessly promoting my local business customers, many of those mentioned below were never on my list of accounts.  I’m just passing on good tips, from one neighbor to another.  If you do confess to having a somewhat pretentious side, you could start from the bottom and work your way up—I’ve grouped the list in order from the casual to the elegant:

Delectable chicken dish presented elegantly at Fast Break.Real Irish bars, like Rogers Pub, west side of Beach 116, just north of Rockaway Beach Boulevard (it’s NOT TGI Fridays, thank you!);

Pizza at Ciro’s Restaurant on the west side of the beach block (the Italian language is actually spoken here);

Lublin Deli is one of the few places on the peninsula where you can get a box of great imported baking cocoa, or an authentic European-style cold cut, when you crave a departure from Boar’s Head.  Or buy a Polish newspaper, just for grins. I look at the pictures of New York City news events and have fun trying to guess what the captions say.  It’s always an adventure. The grill kielbasa is rumored to be even better than what you can get in Greenpoint.

Summer's coming--The Wharf's Friday happy hour with acoustic music and Chicken Francese.The little diner that packs a punch, with great breakfast and Sunday dinner specials—Last Stop Diner (next to the train station);

A friendly welcome from Mike, and home-made foods, particularly those with Middle-Eastern influences, at Fast Break Gourmet (across from the train station);

From the water, the Wharf doesn't look like much...Incomparable views at the newly renovated Wharf Restaurant (bay-side end of Beach 116 Street, behind the gas station);

The food, service, and yummy bread basket selections at Belle Harbor Steak House (across from the firehouse), which is a great place for dishes with European flair;

That never-ending zest for all things beautiful and beachy, including Rockaway, displayed by Jeanne and Liz and their staff at the Blue Bungalow Gift Shop (west side, beach block);

The cute decor at Mrs. Elaine's School of Dance.Tastefully designed dance and exercise spaces at Anita’s ‘Hot Yoga’ and Mrs. Elaine’s Dance Studio (west side, beach block), are a beauty to behold. It’s also fun to experience the camaraderie the proprietors have created among their students;

A work by Rockaway's stained glass master, Patrick ClarkI’ve always enjoyed visiting Sunlites Stained Glass and the Beach Gallery, located in the former Palm Gardens Pub (north side of Rockaway Beach Blvd., between Beach 114 & Beach 115 Streets).  This collection of art works, both sacred and secular, could only have been created by the eclectic Patrick Clark, another true Rockaway gem.

Be sure to stop for a while to drink in the peaceful atmosphere at Tribute Park (bay-side end of Beach 116 Street), created as a labor of love by local residents, in the aftermath of 9/11.  Incidentally, the amount spent to create this park was a fraction of the cost Tenth Anniversary at Tribute Park, September 2011expended on similar New York City parks.  Now THAT is also something to celebrate…

Header photo copyright 2012 Robert F. Carter, crystal oyster photo copyright 2010 Robert F. Carter, article and remaining Rawling mural photos copyright 2012, Vivian R. Carter, remaining photos copyright 2011, Vivian R. Carter.

About rockviv

You've entered the cyber-locale of Vivian Rattay Carter, a grant writer employed by Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation in The South Bronx. I've lived and worked in the New York metro area since 1979, in diverse places like Astoria and Rockaway Beach (Queens), Kensington and Windsor Terrace (Brooklyn), Grand Street and Tribeca (Manhattan), and Norwood, Woodlawn, and Riverdale (The Bronx). I treasure the amazing parks, architecture, and cultural institutions of our multicultural city, as well as the musicians and music lovers who enjoy congregating here.
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4 Responses to Inspired at the Laundromat

  1. Marina Callaghan says:

    Hi Vivian….I am enjoying the read. Just so you know…Geoff not only has a web site…he has a cell phone too.

    All the best,
    Marina Callaghan

    • rockviv says:

      Good to hear from you, and thanks for providing the new information so I can both correct my blog, and give Geoff’s webpage a boost by linking to it. He’s at His body of work is quite impressive. I had never seen this webpage before, so I appreciate learning of it. I also just found out on Sunday that Geoff decided to come over to the dark side and get a cell phone, as well. The inevitable march of technology!

  2. rockviv says:

    Revitalization of the Beach 116 business district will be critical, and yet, it will be such a challenge. Everybody who lives and works in Rockaway could help by getting involved in civic matters.

    • JHRNMRC says:

      Been thinking about this. I was never involved until mid-life. I was encouraged by my father to join the Democratic Club but it seemed so lame to me. I was never a good history student.Never studied civics. I was clueless. Didn’t know the names of any reps. nor the difference between the US senate congress and had no idea we had state senators etc – community boards clueless. I am a novice still but feel I have a place and a say now that I never felt before. I was embarrassed and clueless despite having an MA. I never felt I had a place at the table, never thought that I could ever call or write to any of my reps. Unique, I am beginning to think not. Chalk it up to disinterest. I think it may be something like feeling. There are leaders and followers. I just never stopped to consider that the leaders represented ME. I just figured they knew better than me and would always make better decisions because I new zip.

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