Remember the Ouija Board?

DSCN0361 DSCN0360 DSCN0362 DSCN0364Here’s undoubtedly THE biggest news since Superstorm Sandy hit on October 29, 2012:

The first new FEMA flood maps in 25 years were issued yesterday. For a summary on the new maps and stunning photos, check out the Jan. 28, 2013 New York Daily News:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/new-fema-flood-map-doubles-at-risk-buildings-city-article-1.1249555

The story contains a link to the website of Region 2 FEMA, where you can input your home address and view the map.  Residents interviewed for this story and other news stories of the past several months, comment on the unknown future risk of storm damage as a salient concern.  Those of us living on the peninsula since the storm know that many conversations with neighbors come around to this point, as well.  Was Superstorm Sandy just the “100 year storm” we can now put behind us and move on with our lives?  Do we need that fun game in a box, the Ouija board, to figure out the future risk?

For those seeking answers more reliable than what you’d get from a fortune-telling toy, it is interesting to view a February 2006 interview with Professor Nicholas Coch of Queens College, from the CBS News website.  Professor Coch speaks about the monumental 1893 hurricane that made a direct hit on New York City, shutting down the New York Stock Exchange and washing away the entire outer beach off of Far Rockaway.  He says the full six columns of the following day’s front page of the New York Times were devoted to the storm.  Here is the link to the interview:

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=1847560n

It would also be educational to review the following summary of important storms of the past 100 years, which I have culled from records of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE), the 110th Anniversary edition of The Wave, and other historical sources. It shows large gaps of time between some of these events.  Congratulations are in order, as we have just lived through the largest of these gaps, which was 19 years with no important storms of note, between the 1992 Nor’easter and Hurricane Irene in 2011.  Unfortunately, it also shows disturbing cycles of multiple storms in quick succession, including two years, 1954 and 1960, when there were two severe storms in one season.

Major Storms of the Past Century to Hit the Rockaways

Jan. 5, 1914–Bellot’s History of the Rockaways: Severe storm and fire tore up, burned and washed away the boardwalk built by private hoteliers in Arverne, prompting calls for a new boardwalk from Far Rockaway to Neponsit.

1920—Wave: storm damaged beaches, which were strewn with clams!

1936—Wave: no-name hurricane damaged beaches

1938—Wave: Long Island Express hurricane damage

1944—Wave: no-name hurricane damaged beaches

Nov. 1950—USACOE: Storm damaged Holland boardwalk and Broad Channel extensively

Nov. 1953—USACOE: Rockaway Pt. damaged heavily after storm

Aug. 31, 1954—USACOE: Two named storms, hurricanes Carol and Edna, damaged Rockaway.

July 30, 1960—USACOE: Storm caused flooding (particularly in Far Rockaway)

Sept. 1960—USACOE: Hurricane Donna flooded the peninsula again.

March 8, 1962—USACOE: Bad storm damage throughout peninsula

Dec.-Jan. 1963—Wave: 3-day storm caused much damage

Winter 1970-71—Author Lawrence Kaplan: Bad storms led to severe beach erosion. At least 14 blocks of the beach had completely disappeared by 1973.

Feb. 1972—Wave: heavy erosion and damage from storm.

April-May 1973—Wave: Rockaway’s beaches damaged severely from East to West. Heavy erosion and washouts all over during this period of time.

June 1973—NYC Parks photo archive: Mayor Lindsay inspected beaches with USACOE.

July 14, 1975—Long Island Press: Beaches filled in completely by USACOE

Sept. 1985—Wave: Hurricane Gloria strikes NYC and Long Island.

Dec. 11, 1992—Wave: Nor’easter causes major flooding on peninsula.

August 2011—Hurricane Irene causes major flooding on peninsula.

October 29, 2012—Superstorm Sandy causes massive destruction on peninsula.

I have only provided some important clues through this summary; I leave it to responsible officials of the city, state and federal government to fill in the historical details on the measured extent of damage from each of these storms of the past century, so we can make responsible decisions as homeowners on how to proceed.  I was told that two concrete structures (one of which is shown in the header photo), now visible on the sand in the Beach 130’s, had been submerged since at least the 1950’s.  That might provide another tantalizing clue.

Text and photos copyright Vivian R. Carter 2013.

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Posted in New York City Government, New York State Government, Planet Earth, The Built World, The Land We Share, U.S. Government, Water and waterways | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Floor Space Only, as Beach Rebuild Plans Aired at CB 14

Not a reading rug in sight. Commissioner Dotty Lewandowski speaks to the crowd.

Not a reading rug in sight. Commissioner Dotty Lewandowski speaks to the crowd.

I bet that former New York City Parks Commissioner Robert Moses (a fitness maven himself) would have enjoyed the scene. It resembled a gym class at the still-closed Beach Channel High School, except that there were adults in the floor spots at the Knights of Columbus on Tuesday, January 8, 2013.

By 7:30 p.m., it was questionable whether there would be a quorum of the  50 or so sitting appointees at the regular monthly meeting of Community Board 14. Yet over 250 members of the public had packed the room to hear Dotty Lewandowski, Queens Parks Commissioner, explain the plans to repair the Rockaway beach and boardwalk for the upcoming summer season. Eventually, a quorum of board members seemed to narrowly materialize, and the Commissioner’s informative slideshow was projected onto a wall in a recessed alcove at the back of the room. Unfortunately, only standees at the back near the door, and spectators with the will (and cushioning) to seat themselves on the floor were able to see. No reading rugs in this room!

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Gus Rosendale of NBC News Channel 4 covered the meeting for the 11 p.m. broadcast, and Lisa Colangelo of the New York Daily News provided a concise written wrap-up the next day.  Here are links to their publications:

http://www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/Sandy-Rockaways-Boardwalk-Beach-Reopening-Summer-2013-Community-Board-Meeting-186112382.html

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/rockaway-beachfront-recovery-plan-unveiled-article-1.1236822

From my perspective, after years of attending these meetings, the turnout was the big story.  When the Facebook crowd decides to show up in person (which isn’t often), they can overfill all the available venues quite nicely.  With a February 19 special election just announced to fill James Sanders, Jr.’s City Council seat this week, candidates also got to work. Jacques Leandre from Southeast Queens appeared, which was a sighting as rare as a white pelican in Jamaica Bay.  It was hard to tell who was lining the back walls, but Donovan Richards (Sanders’ protege) may have been there, as well.  Barry Grodenchik, a regular attendee, is now running to replace Borough President Helen Marshall at the conclusion of her term, so he made sure to take his place at the table.   Although Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder was in Albany for the following day’s State of the State speech, his press aide, Angelica Katz, was there, as were Jerry Sullivan and Sandee Doremus, staffers for City Councilman Eric Ulrich and State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., respectively.  Jerry and Sandee must have called or texted their employers, as Ulrich and Addabbo both showed up, by mid-meeting.  In what seemed like an ironic twist, both electeds announced that they are looking for new office space in Rockaway. Real estate broker alert!

CB 14 panel member Noreen Ellis, President of Rockaway Civic Association, asserts concerns on behalf of homeowners.

CB 14 panel member Noreen Ellis, President of Rockaway Civic Association, asserts concerns on behalf of homeowners.

Commissioner Lewandowski’s focus is clearly on securing the safety of the remaining structures and debris on the beach in the short term, and creating some limited access islands for next summer, to help keep the tourism spigot flowing.  There was a great deal of discussion about the replacement surface (wood vs. concrete vs. plastic), and the Parks Department plans to try a combination of these options that has not yet been firmed up completely. Some sections will remain as is, some will be repaired with similar wood surfaces, and a piece will be left where it floated, as a historical remnant.

Of the 30 or so individuals who signed up for 3 minutes of public speaking time, there were many homeowners concerned that the beach sand be replaced and secured in some way, so that a new storm does not inundate us with sand, debris, and water again.  Judging from past local controversies, there are not many willing to be vocal advocates for a natural vegetated dune system, but I spoke in favor dunes anyway, because it is clearly the right thing to do. At least I wasn’t booed or hissed.  That’s progress.

Activist Joe Hartigan, who after years of dedicated advocacy helped bring the Seastreak Ferry to our shores, got big applause with a brief and impassioned pitch for the quick deployment  of HESCO barriers (used by our military in sandy battle zones).  You can visit http://www.hesco.com for photos and description. In my mind, there are questions as to the aesthetics of using these on our beach and I don’t know that they have been fully tested in oceanfront environments during storms.  Joe’s unorthodox proposed solution seems  flexible and promising, but has been ignored by city officials, so far.  Far be it from the city to consider a suggestion when it comes from an informed local resident…

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The regular meetings of Community Board 14 occur on the second Tuesday of the month.  In February, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be speaking about beach replenishment. Another large crowd is expected.  Due to the larger than usual attendance since meetings recommenced post-storm, Ulrich and Addabbo are not the only ones looking for a good real estate broker.  Anybody know of a nice, centrally-located meeting room on the peninsula with seating for 300 or more?  Booking school auditoriums involves  a lot of red tape these days, and many of the floors in the larger church halls (like St. Camillus, St. Francis and First Congregational) were heavily damaged by the storm.

Text and meeting photos copyright 2013, Vivian R. Carter. Dune photo copyright 2012, Vivian R. Carter.

Posted in Local Government-Rockaway Peninsula & Broad Channel, New York City Government | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Should We Stick Our Heads in the Sand?

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We just lived through “the big one.” Hurricane Sandy was a more dangerous and destructive storm than 1962’s Hurricane Donna, and in terms of property damage, it far eclipsed the deadly 1938 Long Island Express, which catapulted a 30-foot-high wave over parts of the Jersey Shore. The most destructive storm to which we can compare Sandy is the late 1890s weather event that decimated Hog Island, an inhabited sand bar in Reynolds Channel (from Beach 17 to Beach 20 Streets). That storm also widened Norton’s Creek, the body of water that used to connect the ocean and the bay at Beach 35 Street, and undermined the grand, oceanfront Edgemere Hotel and all the structures around it, plus the iconic Iron Pier at Beach 105 Street in Seaside. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers arrived on the peninsula thereafter by popular demand, although reports show that the Corps had conducted dredging in Jamaica Bay even before that time. The Corps bulkheaded and filled Norton’s Creek after the storm, forever connecting to the rest of the peninsula the island that then included Edgemere, Arverne, Rockaway Beach and points west. By 1902, about 100 “cottages” were constructed west of Beach 116 Street, and the development of the west end began to accelerate.

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We’ve seen first-hand what a really nasty hurricane can do to a developed barrier island/peninsula. Do we now explore every measure devised by man to protect our beaches and make our homes safer from the invasion of water? Methods that worked to safeguard individual homeowners and communities along the coast during Hurricane Sandy included a system of dunes anchored by discarded Christmas trees (in Bradley Beach, Monmouth County, NJ), and homes constructed on high concrete pillars (also in Monmouth County and in the Long Island Sound communities of Westchester County). In the Netherlands, experimental structures called amphibious homes look just like houseboats sitting directly on the water, except that they are supported by a stable platform fitted with a hydraulic lift that rises with the tide.

The carefully designed infrastructure of the new Arverne by the Sea community held up quite well against the ravages of the sea. Homeowners in other areas of the Rockaways should be watching for the new flood maps that should be issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency soon, to see how the elevations on their blocks compare to those at ABTS. Word is that nobody in that development needed to move a car from its normal parking spot or evacuate. Compare this to the residents who endured the storm in Breezy Point, Broad Channel and Rockaway Park, watching 6 feet of water climb the sides of their houses and set their vehicles afloat.  If you’d like to keep up-to-date on local storm-related issues, I’d recommend visiting the Hurricane Sandy webpage of Region 2 FEMA, at http://www.region2coastal.com/sandy. There is a wealth of information explaining map terminology like FIRMs and ABFEs. You can enter your address and download the map for your area, or sign up for an email newsletter, Twitter feed or RSS feed.

I think we need to take heed of these instructive examples. Alternatively, we could just spray sand on the beaches as we’ve done in the past, and stick our heads in it.

Text and photos copyright Vivian R. Carter 2012.  Note: all images in this post, including header photo, were taken at the 7 a.m. high tide during the no-name Nor’easter storm on Thur. Dec. 27, 2012, NOT during Hurricane Sandy.

Posted in New York City Government, Planet Earth, The Built World, The Land We Share, U.S. Government, Water and waterways | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

We Demanded the Sand–but THIS is Ridiculous!

What’s Left of the Vivino Residence on Beach 129 Street

Rock Viv is back!

The Harbor Light in flames, at about 12:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 30. I took this photo from the rear window of my home on the 400 block of Beach 128 Street.

I survived Hurricane Sandy, which struck the Northeast coast of the United States at about 9 p.m. on Monday, October 29.  I sent a panicked text message to a friend a few minutes later that said:  “the entire basement and first floor is flooded, and the house is shaking.  My car is filled with water up to dashboard.  The whole 400 block here has water half way up first floors!”  That panic was nothing compared to how I felt a few hours later as I watched the embers of the Harbor Light Restaurant fire blowing hard to the north, landing on the Maroneys’ house, just across the back yard.  I only managed to sleep once I was assured that Bulloch’s gas station was not going to blow up, as tanks are always sealed off from such catastrophes, these days.  The risk of fire was something the OEM brochure on hurricanes didn’t mention. Something few of us had thought of.

Breezy Point Fire Site

My second floor apartment stayed dry, but not warm. I toughed it out without heat or lights for almost 10 days on the Rock, with flashlights and pots of steaming water on the stove.  Then, the Nor’easter blew in on Wednesday, November 7.  At that point, I knew that my attempt to stay was futile.

Relief Center at SFDS.

There are so many people and groups to thank; it is overwhelming to even try.  Number one was the Catholic Charities organization, which arrived at St. Francis de Sales Church with canned goods and warm clothing on Day 2, followed by days and days of increased support and sustenance of various kinds.

The mission of First Congregational Church did not cease as a result of the storm. The historic sanctuary doubled as storage for donated clothing while worship services continued. AA meetings resumed on Day 3, despite heavy storm damage to the chapel floor, Sunday School and basement choir room.

Thanks to the many friends who offered me shelter, showers and rides, like the guys from the First Congregational Church AA meeting who rescued me from the sleet and cold, and drove me to the parsonage of the Ridgewood Presbyterian Church.  There, Pastors Vicki Moss and John Harris welcomed me into their lovely, fireplace-cheered “Mermaid Room,” which was a peaceful respite for a night. Also, I owe much gratitude to Jason and Joy Marr of Hip to Hip Shakespeare Company, who followed by offering me a week in their apartment in Woodside (with a well-appointed laundry room, which was a lifesaver).  Perhaps most memorable was the first opportunity to take a warm shower on Day 8, courtesy of The Hartigans. How did some people figure out how to get their boilers and heat running so early?  I guess you could say that luck favors the prepared, and the generator-owners…

The now famous Breezy Point Madonna was featured in New York Times this week. I snapped this photo on Day 3.

So many friends emailed or called to check in and express their concern–be assured that since communications were practically non-existent to those on the Rock during the first week, I would have responded sooner if I could have.  I was dying to post to this blog since the day after the storm.  I was so anxious about it, that I ended up misplacing my camera card with photos taken on Days 2 and 3, when I walked all the way from the Breezy Tip to Beach 94 Street to document nature’s mutilation of our community.  I regret that due to lack of transportation and sheer exhaustion, I couldn’t get further east on the peninsula to view all of the damage.   Now that Day 18 is here, I am finally organized and ready to tell my own story.  Yet, I feel so numb that I can barely write.

The view from the balconies of The Ocean Grande is significantly less grand, with this to look at!

I knew it was really bad when there was no Wave newspaper on Friday, November 2, or November 9.  The paper was founded in 1893, and I don’t think there had ever been a cessation of publication before this storm.  The first floor newsroom (with original bound copies of the paper from the 1890’s and on) was destroyed.  Much of the archives of the Rockaway Museum and Playland memorabilia–gone.  Another truly shocking vision was the sight of Dean Georges’ beachfront home, which held a huge collection of Rockaway memorabilia, flattened to the sand.  I hope the statue from Curley’s Hotel survived, Dean!

Award for best promotion and marketing as a result of the storm goes to Kenny Vance of the Planotones (and earlier, Jay and the Americans). When his beachfront home hit the sand, his entire collection of CDS, 45 rpm records, posters, and memorabilia dating back to the 1950s, was strewn about the lawns, sidewalks and streets of the west end, much of it landing several blocks from the house!

But ask anybody about the true punch to the gut, and most will answer that it was the sight of the entire Rockaway boardwalk lifted from its concrete supports and tossed like Tinker Toys against apartment buildings and homes.  In fact, I hadn’t cried at all until Day 5,  when my Grundig world band radio, tuned to the Bon Jovi-Springsteen fund-raising concert, picked up the first strains of the group of performers singing “Under the Boardwalk.”  I sobbed for 5 minutes straight!

One of the oldest buildings on the Rockaway Park beachfront took wear and tear, but survived. The Chai Home was a beachfront hotel during the peninsula’s heyday, but later became a social welfare facility.

But perhaps most disturbing of all, when I heard that the bridges supporting the shuttle train tracks to Rockaway Park had been completely wrecked, I got a chill.  It took 6 years to get the bridge rebuilt and train service restored, after the trestle fire of May, 1950.  Let’s not even think about it…

You need a caption for this one because you wouldn’t recognize it–what’s left of Ciro’s Pastry Shop on Beach 129 Street.

My truly unique perspective on all of this is not the loss of a car, or two broken windows in my home, or six neighbors who died as a result of the storm.  I devoted almost four years, from 2008 to 2011, to providing advertising support for the operators of the businesses of the west end of the peninsula.  I counted almost all of them as close personal friends. I helped from the first days with the launch of Rockaway Seafood Restaurant, Surfside Bagels, Thai Rock, and other successful start-ups.  Almost every one of them was wiped out for the time being.

Formerly Sunlites Stained Glass Studio

All five of the retail stores selling my book, Images of America: Rockaway Beach, sustained major damage, as well.  What an unspeakable loss.

The first to reopen, on Day 17, was Frankie Giambra’s barbershop on Beach 129 Street. Several other businesses on the east side of the street seem like they will be following, soon.  Hope of a recovery is there.

The Irish Circle, oldest building in Rockaway Beach, has survived the 1938 Long Island Express, Hurricanes Donna and Irene, and now–Sandy!

Let’s look on the bright side. We demanded the sand.  We sure got it.

Text and photos copyright 2012 Vivian R. Carter

Posted in Planet Earth, The Land We Share, Water and waterways | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Are You Better Off Than You Were in 1974?

Things have changed a lot in the past eight years.

In October, 2004, I stood in front of my class of sixth graders at Channel View School for Research to teach a lesson on the skill of persuasive speaking–the literacy “genre of the month” as selected by regional office curriculum planners.   I remember that I began the class by reading aloud an excerpt of a political speech delivered during the summer 2004 Democratic convention by a relatively obscure legislator from Illinois named Barack Obama.  I will never forget how those cynical urban youngsters rolled their eyes skeptically at me when I stated with confidence that the speaker would, some day, become the first African-American President of the United States.

I’m trying to decide whether I’d rather be living in 2004.

Channel View Sixth Graders, Teachers and Chaperones at Beach Clean-up, Fall 2006

The pay phone is still there! I wonder how much it is used nowadays. Thanks to Kiski Area student Hannah Milheim for snapping this photo for me.

Then, over Columbus Day weekend, I thought hard about whether I’d rather be living in 1974.  I walked through the vastly changed halls of my high school alma mater in Western Pennsylvania, at an open house commemorating the 50th  anniversary of the school’s founding.  It was comforting that the pay telephone outside of the yearbook office, where I called home regularly to check on my college acceptance letters, was still there.   I vividly remember the day in 1974 when I got the good news that I was accepted to Northwestern University (which was known to some as the “Harvard of the Midwest,” and to others as the Big Ten school with the longest losing streak in college football history).  The scream of joy I emitted, standing at that pay phone, is fixed in my memory.

Northwestern Marching Band Performs Post-Game Show at Citrus Bowl, January 1997. The football team lost to Tennessee by an embarrassing margin that year, but the band was always a top competitor!

However, it was discomforting that the school’s legendary principal, William K. Miller, did not remember me when I said hello at the gala dinner later that evening.   I had never played on our school’s championship football team (or in any other sport, for that matter), and hence was ineligible for the “Kiski Area Hall of Fame.”   Perhaps Miller unconsciously blanked out any memory of that rare Kiski student who had chosen to attend a university with such a notoriously poor football team.  Miller must have felt an awkward need to say something, so he just gazed at my freshly coiffed head of hair and chirped: “love those blondes!”

At this point, I felt like I WAS in 1974.

But the facts tell me otherwise.  I see three framed diplomas on my wall.  I’m the mother of two college-bound teenagers, with a box full of color brochures to show for it.  I’ve been the owner of three automobiles and four residential properties over the past two decades, and more insurance policies than I care to count.  Fifteen years of tax returns show a nice steady progression from my first full-time summer job at S. Klein Department Store, through a Wall Street stint in the late 1980’s.  I adhered to the social contract and did my part to fill my home with the trappings of the American Dream, even earning nicely as a temporary part-timer through marriage, pregnancy, family crises, 9/11/01 and the crash of Flight 587.  I have been an upstanding citizen—really.

The question is—do I count anymore, now that I’ve received my first senior discount at Waldbaum’s?  If so, how much?  Do I count as just one vote to be cast among the vast numbers in the electorate?  I don’t own Toys R’ Us, The New York Giants, or Barclay’s Arena.  Perhaps I’d count more if I made a million dollars or owned a sports team or conglomerate.  Instead, I’m just a passionate volunteer community activist and writer.

Debate on October 11, 2012, between City Councilman Eric Ulrich (seated, left) and State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. (seated, center), sponsored by Rockaway Civic Association (Rick Horan, Rock Civic Vice-President, is at podium).

I will go to the polls in November, and decide whether to vote for the red, blue, or green team.  I know both of the New York State Senate candidates (Joseph Addabbo, Jr. and Eric Ulrich) personally, and believe both are very fit to serve. Having said that, they both favor introduction of gaming tables at the already successful Resorts World Casino, yet fail to support restoration of the Whitepot Junction train line from Ozone Park to Rego Park, which would provide us with a quicker commute to Manhattan and jobs in other parts of Queens.  Believe me, Woodhaven Boulevard is going to get a lot more congested,

New York State Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (shown here at the Rockaway Civic meeting prior to the debate in October 2012) is to be commended for leading the charge to restore the Whitepot Junction Line.

so we need that train line!

I ask all of our elected officials–when will the people of Queens, who welcomed this casino, get something in return, besides a passel of minimum wage jobs?  And when will you, who step forward to lead, show more respect for the remaining ecosystems we have here along the bay and the coast?  I think it takes enormous courage these days to defend what is wild, natural and beautiful, particularly where there is money to be made.  On this subject, it should be mentioned that Addabbo has opposed fracking for natural gas, but Ulrich, disappointingly, has not.  Fracking is a dangerous and greedy sport whose playing field is the fresh underground aquifers of the State of New York.

I wish this were just a football game. And sometimes, I wish it were 1974.

Text copyright Vivian R. Carter 2012.  Photos copyright Vivian R. Carter 2012, or used with permission of owners.

Posted in Business and Economics, Creatures of the Planet (Non-Human), New York City Government, Planet Earth, Water and waterways | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrate Book Month by Rattling the Skeletons in Rockaway’s Closet!

Belle Harbor Yacht Club is Landlocked by the Roadway that Moses Built

The Rockaway Peninsula is a land of mystery.  Did you ever wonder why we have a yacht club without a dock, and a graffiti-covered concrete box perched on a deserted stretch of bay front beach?

And why there is a house on Shorefront Parkway that has seemingly been  cut in half?

It’s not an easy task to unravel these mysteries.  Rockaway got its own newspapers beginning in the 1880’s (and possibly, even as early as 1876), and prior to that time, there was some coverage of major local events in papers such as the New York Times, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and Long Island Farmer.  A compact little hard-cover book, History of the Rockaways from the Year 1685 to 1917, was self-published by Alfred H. Bellot in 1917.  A local magazine called The Rockaway Review was distributed for decades by the Chamber of Commerce, starting in 1935.  None of these materials are available to borrow at libraries here on the peninsula.  The Bellot book and the vintage Times, Eagle, and Farmer articles can be found online, but not The Wave or The Rockaway Review.    

Old-timers tell me that the demolition of Playland in the 1980s initiated a groundswell of interest in preserving the public history of the peninsula.  The Wave celebrated its 100th year of publication in 1993 with a fascinating 100th Anniversary Collector’s Edition, compiled largely by local historian Emil Lucev.  The Rockaway Museum was formed in 1995, and some aviation and amusements memorabilia were assembled and displayed during the 1990s, as well.    By the time the decade ended, Dover Publications of Mineola had even introduced, for the first time in ages, a local history book about the peninsula–Old Rockaway, New York in Early Photographs, by Vincent Seyfried and William Asadorian.

In the first decade of the new millennium, more authors stepped up to make contributions.  In 2003, Columbia University Press added the only title that could be called a scholarly tome, Lawrence and Carol Kaplan’s Between Ocean and City:  The Transformation of Rockaway, New York.  The Arcadia photo histories about Jamaica Bay, The Rockaways (postcard images series), and Broad Channel, by Dan Hendrick, Emil Lucev, and the Guarinos (Dan and Liz) followed, in 2006, 2007 and 2008.  My Images of America: Rockaway Beach, published by Arcadia in June 2012, is the latest entry.

October is Book Month. Although we have only one cemetery on the peninsula, there are plenty of skeletons in Rockaway’s closet, waiting to be discovered!  From October 1 through November 26, from 5:30 -6:45 p.m., Seaside Branch of the Queens Library (Beach 117th and Rockaway Beach Boulevard) will be hosting a series of meetings of the Oceanus Bone Diggers Club, a new group for folks interested in reading and discussing some of these local history books.   I will facilitate these sessions, and do my best to make them lively and interactive.  If you are interested, a registration form is attached, or you can get one at the Seaside Library.  oceanusbonediggersbookclubregform3 Please complete the form, being sure to tell us if you already own any of the books to be read. Then, return it to the library as soon as possible, to confirm your registration. The library has reserved copies of the first book we will be reading, by Seyfried and Asadorian. Be sure to pick one up when you drop off your form.  This is critical, because the book is out of print, and it costs anywhere from $80 – $300 to purchase it online!

I’m looking forward to leading this community historical “dig.”  Pick-axe, shovel, and headlamp are NOT required!

Drawing of skeleton, book and candle in the public domain. All other text and photos copyright 2012 Vivian R. Carter.

Posted in Local Government-Rockaway Peninsula & Broad Channel, New York City Government, The Built World, The Land We Share, The World of Human Beings | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Thanks to Aunt Abby Ryder

From the water, the Wharf doesn't look like much...

The Wharf from the water. Copyright 2011 Vivian R. Carter

The summer media campaign for my book, Images of America: Rockaway Beach, closes on a high note, thanks to Aunt Abby’s historic bayfront clam chowder house.  Today’s New York Times Dining Section features an article and photo spread, “Where Pirates Can Dock and Dine in New York.”

The piece, written by Daniel Maurer, includes images shot at local bayfront restaurants by Daniel Krieger. Area establishments profiled are Thai Rock, Bungalow Bar, Bayview, and The Wharf.

Maurer’s review is critical of the fish taco wrappers at the Wharf. But he fails to mention the most pertinent point–the filling is fresh Long Island cod filets, not refreshed tilapia.

Don’t miss the slide show on the Times web page, as well.  I had run into Maurer at a Bungalow Bar book signing in July, and he graciously purchased a copy so he could inform himself about the peninsula’s history.  Maurer cited me and my book as the source for details on the history of waterfront dining dating back to Rockaway’s earliest days.  Enjoy his in-depth coverage of our neighborhood by clicking on this link:  http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/08/29/dining/20120829-BAY.html?ref=dining

Dining Room at the magical bay-front venue, Thai Rock. Copyright 2011 Robert F. Carter

Other exceptional media coverage–the July 27 interview on WFUV 90.7 FM’s public service program, Cityscapes.  Listen to the full 30-minute audio program by clicking here: http://www.wfuv.org/news/cityscape/120728/cityscape-rock-rock-rockaway-beach  There’s also a fun 2 minute teaser from WFUV’s Facebook page, if you click here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJyDkT85AzA

The July 12 New York Daily News feature on my book by Lisa Colangelo, with a photo by Jeff Bachner, was also very complimentary. Read it here:  http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/queens/new-book-details-role-rockaway-pioneers-article-1.1112288

I also have to mention the piece that got it all started, a double-page spread on the cover of the Forest Hills Ledger Q Guide of June 28. Read it by clicking this link:  http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2012/26/rockawaybeachauthor_all_2012_06_28_q.html

Of course, several articles and complimentary commentary have also been written in The Wave and The Rockaway Point News.   A glowing review was published by the website RockawayMemories.com. http://rockawaymemories.com/RockawayBeachBookReview.htm

All in all, the reception of my book by the citywide print and electronic media has been overwhelming.  I am proud to have made this contribution to the literature about my hometown.  Thanks to everyone who has purchased the book.  Thanks also to the Silver Gull Club of Breezy Point for hosting my Campus at the Pool adult education series in July and August. I apologize that I was not able to conduct some planned walking tours of Rockaway Beach over the summer.  The street repairs have made it too hazardous to do this.

In September, I plan to launch a 6-week local history book club for residents. We will be reading five titles on the history of Rockaway, and perusing several interesting historical pamphlets.   During the month of October, I will be delivering a lecture at the Queens Historical Society in Flushing,  conducting a program at Barnes and Noble bookstore in Fresh Meadows in conjunction with the public history classes at St. John’s University, and delivering one of the presentations in the Herbert Johnson Lecture Series at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Dates will be announced soon.

Posted in Business and Economics, Jamaica Bay, The Arts and Entertainment, Water and waterways | 4 Comments

Starbucks Arrives on the Rock, In a Way

They’ve finally made their way along the North Atlantic Flyway–Starbucks Cups Have Arrived on the Rock!

Somehow, they are getting to the peninsula—those ubiquitous Starbucks coffee cups.  The $6 Joe can’t be purchased locally, but we have become a “privileged” repository of the brand’s classy paper receptacles, and trash of various other kinds.  Everyone’s starting to notice the volume of waste being left behind every hot summer day. Turns the “leave no trace” slogan of the National Park Service on its head.

If trash cans are full, please take your trash to the next receptacle that is not full–even if it’s at your home!

Do they deliver pies out here?

A casual stroll behind the RAA galleries at Ft.Tilden on Sunday, July 22, 2012, turned up pizza boxes, coffee cups from stores we don’t have in Rockaway, and extensive vandalism of signs and roadways.

When visitors from near and far have no respect for the fences, walkways or overflowing conditions of trash cans at Ft. Tilden or along the Rockaway Beach boardwalk, it doesn’t surprise me that destruction and theft of piping plover nest eggs has followed.

Disrespect for property has always been found to lead to other types of law-breaking.  I consider it a privilege to live in one of the last seafront bastions of the tiny, harmless piping plover (there are fewer than 2,000 nesting pairs left on the Atlantic coast, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).  This bird has been pushed to the brink by short-sighted and greedy over-development of shore front areas.  I really don’t find it amusing when local characters make juvenile jokes that “piping plover tastes like chicken,” and “it’s good on the BBQ.”  Likewise, I was horrified when an area “waterfront activist” who has been the recipient of  environmental education grants suggested at a 2009 public meeting that people are more important than birds, so we should just run the boardwalk over the plover nests!  Maybe that’s the nature of our society today–man always comes first.

If there is no enforcement of the littering, vandalism or pooper scooper laws, good luck to endangered species.  As William Shakespeare wisely wrote in his play, Measure for Measure:  We must not make a scarecrow of the law, setting it up to [frighten] the birds of prey, and letting it keep one shape till custom make it their perch and not their terror.”

Looks like the body of laws that protects the health and safety of our public spaces is becoming a scarecrow.  A scarecrow covered with flocks of ignorant, careless, selfish, lazy, perching birds.  If we look away and say nothing, we are living in denial.

Put out a welcome mat for park visitors? I’d prefer to quote the sign that hangs over the bar at Rogers Pub: “Be Good or Be Gone.”

Text and photos copyright 2012 Vivian R. Carter

Posted in Creatures of the Planet (Non-Human), piping plovers, The Land We Share | Tagged , | 4 Comments

“We Used to Vacation” and Other Lost Summer Rituals

I headed into the kitchen for my morning coffee, and flicked on the radio.  A song recorded by The Cold War Kids was on, called We Used to Vacation. A great lost summer ritual.

In the past week, I’ve been thinking a lot about my father in his heyday, presiding over the planning and execution of our summer camping trips all over the East Coast.  We ultimately moved up to a Winnebago, but in the beginning, he built a padded wooden frame in the back of the pick-up truck, where we all could sleep like sardines in a can. In his prime, Dad built lots of things, like a basement “rec” room, an enclosed porch, and a 2-car garage with an attached carport.

He’s now tottering, with Parkinson’s Disease. Mom has been taking care of what’s left of his mind and body. He doesn’t speak much, having descended into an interior world and closed the blinds. I am sad that I cannot talk with him on the phone about recent exciting events in my life.

Dad always made it a point to set aside enough for a summer pool membership for the family.  A luxury item here in Rockaway, admission to the community pool was within the reach of working class families in many places during the 1970s. Vivid memories of Friday night teen swim parties come rushing back to me.

Dad had a job with Alcoa.  We waited expectantly for the company picnic each summer. From sack races to corn-on-the-cob and Dixie cups, Cold War kids were easy to please.  Children now require fancy frozen fruit or coffee concoctions as summer refreshers, with a dozen flavoring choices. Dixie cups came with two ice cream flavors in the same container.  You don’t like chocolate?  Just eat the vanilla side, and don’t bother me about it! Child-rearing was so much simpler, then.

The Beach Flix Crowd on June 28.

Many Cold War kids probably share my recollection of seeing Snow White or  101 Dalmatians from the back of a station wagon, clad only in pajamas. That scene is being recreated by the Rockaway Civic Association’s free Beach Flix outdoor movies.  Be at the next show, and you are sure to smile. Schedule’s at www.beachflix.com.   Nowadays, one thing IS clearly better–the sound.  Those little box speakers you hung on the car windows at drive-in theaters had the worst sound, ever.  The Beach Flix sound equipment is top of the line.  The last show of the summer will be members’ choice.  Join so you can vote for your favorite classic film, at www.rockawaycivic.com. Picnics are welcome; just be sure to dispose of your trash when you leave the beach!

Jason Marr of Hip to Hip as Hamlet.

Another very special outdoor event new to the area will occur on July 28 and 29.  A leading Shakespearean troupe from Woodside, Queens will do free performances of  Comedy of Errors at Riis Park Bathhouse on July 28 at 7 p.m., and Hamlet, on Sunday, July 29 at 7 p.m. at O’Donohue Park in Far Rockaway. You can find out more about this fine group at www.hiptohip.org.

Riis Park Bathhouse Will Host Comedy of Errors.

My book, Images of America: Rockaway Beach, was featured as the cover story of the June 29 Forest Hills Ledger guide to cultural happenings in Queens. www.timesledger.com.  I will do a book signing on Sunday, July 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Country Heart Diner (in the main Breezy Point shopping plaza), where they make excellent veggie omelets, and have a retro lunch counter with those round, rotating, high pedestal seats that kids love. On Saturday, July 7, and Sunday, July 8, from 1-4 p.m., I also plan to sell and sign books at the Ft.Tilden arts complex and at Riis Landing when the afternoon ferries arrive and depart.

Fellow Rockaway author Kevin Stokes was at the Wharf for the Father’s Day book signing event.

I will do an Author Talk at Seaside Library, Rockaway Beach Blvd. and Beach 115 Street, on Monday, July 16 at 6 p.m., speaking about the pioneers who established this community, showing images with the projector, and selling and signing my book.  I will also be offering Rock Viv Tours, later in the summer and fall, in conjunction with Queens Historical Society.   Hope you will join us!

A tour group I organized in 2011.

Text copyright 2012 Vivian R. Carter; Shakespearean production photos, courtesy Hip to Hip Theatre Company; Wharf photo courtesy Kevin Stokes; remaining photos copyright 2011 Vivian R. Carter.

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Avoid the Lines, Buy Images of America: Rockaway Beach, Early!

You’ll be seeing a good bit of this photo around town in the coming months. Cover of Images of America: Rockaway Beach, courtesy Arcadia Publishing, lifeguard photo, circa 1927, courtesy The Wave.

So you’d like to be one of the first to own a signed copy of Images of America: Rockaway Beach, my new book published on June 4 by Arcadia.   The kickoff event was at Ciro’s Pastry Shop, 415 Beach 129 Street in Belle Harbor, on Monday, June 4.  We celebrated by enjoying a beautiful and delicious cake and Ciro’s excellent coffee, then the book sale commenced!  There is a reason the first event  was held at Ciro’s; many of the photo-gathering sessions for the book occurred there.

For those who can’t make it to a signing, the book is also available by direct order from Oy Vey Rockaway.  All you have to do is look to the far right just below the header photo, for the words “Buy Images of America: Rockaway Beach” and hit the “Buy Now” button to purchase via credit card or Pay Pal account.  If you want a signed copy for yourself or as a Father’s Day gift, there should be an online comment box so you can specify the message to be inscribed.  If that doesn’t work, send me an email at VCARTER@nyc.rr.com with the exact message at the same time you place your order, and I’ll do my best to get it out to you, signed as requested.

With shipping, handling and New York taxes, the total price for copies ordered by mail comes out to slightly less than $27.  I will be shipping the books through the U.S. Postal Service, in envelopes made of 100% recycled materials, with the postmark “Rockaway Beach 11693.”  The postmark alone may turn it into a collectible, since the Rockaway Beach post office is on the list of stations being examined for possible restructuring or closure in the near future.

If you order this way, you should receive the book in your mailbox within a week. Please order early for Father’s Day.  Let’s hope all goes smoothly.  I don’t think that Rock Viv Publications will ever grow to the size of Walmart, but I do hope to give Amazon a run for their money. I will also soon be posting photos of the local retail establishments that will be selling my book in their stores.  I am grateful for their support.  As they say, buy and shop local!

This 1947 photo, which appears on page 94 of the book, had to be cropped to fit Arcadia’s templates. Here it appears in its full glory, courtesy of The Wave. Pre-teen Sharon Gabriel (Rockaway Music and Arts Council Board Member), stands in front of the third window from the right, in a white shirt. Readers may be surprised to know that this building (formerly Greenrose’s Restaurant) still stands, albeit somewhat altered. It’s the storage facility on Beach 90 Street between the RBI’s and the elevated subway station.

Other book-signing events are listed in a separate box on the “Notable Local Events” tab of this website, for those who can’t make it to Ciro’s on June 4. Five are presently scheduled for the month of June, including one that will occur during the monthly meeting of the Rockaway Artists Alliance on Monday, June 11 from 7-9 p.m., at the sTudio 7 Gallery in Ft. Tilden.

Early lay leaders of First Congregational Church, circa 1910. Courtesy FCC.

Images of America: Rockaway Beach contains over 200 previously unpublished photographs documenting the early social history of the communities of Seaside, Holland and Hammels (collectively known as Rockaway Beach). It is a point of pride to me that the book has been produced entirely in the United States.  I assembled all the photographs and wrote all of the text here on the peninsula, and Arcadia Publishing printed the book in South Carolina on American-made, 100% Forest Stewardship Council-certified paper products.

Readers will discover that the contents of my book are quite different from all the others previously published on the subject of The Rockaways.  Although I have included some photos of early hotels and amusements, the vast majority of the pictures in my book show the people and families, the churches and schools, the sports and local entertainment events over the decades in Rockaway Beach.

My take on the subject is also diverse from the previously published histories, because it is written from the perspective of a present-day resident/homeowner.  I have a stake in the future of the area, so I hope that my book will spur more civic involvement and positive, long-lasting change.

Please tell your friends and neighbors about Images of America: Rockaway Beach.  Why not buy a copy for Dad for Father’s Day?  Send the link to out-of-town relatives.  Share the good news–this is a celebration of the year-round residents of Rockaway Beach, past and present.  Pass the book on to your children.  They will write the stories of our future.

Header photo, Memorial Day at Rockaway Beach Parade Grounds, circa 1900, courtesy The Wave.  Other photos used with permission of the owners.  Text copyright 2012 Vivian R. Carter.

Posted in The Arts and Entertainment, The World of Human Beings | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment