Rockaway Beach, Long Island
Rockaway Beach is a neighborhood located on the Rockaway Peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens on the South Shore of Long Island. It stretches between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay running from approximately Beach 73th Street to Beach 98th Street. The beach has a bustling boardwalk that fills up on hot summer days that provides a good opportunity for a lovely ocean stroll. The people especially the kids love to skip along the boardwalk while enjoying under the heat of the sun. They also enjoy playing basketball and handball courts, roller-hockey rinks, sitting areas and playgrounds along the boardwalk and adjoining areas. Rockaway Beach was once known as the "Irish Riviera" because of the large Irish American population in the area with a 25.4% of residents having Irish ancestry according to 2000 census.
Rockaway Beach used to be made up of two different towns; the 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". Rockaway was known as Reckowacky, which meant "the place of our own people", a name that literally was interpreted from "neck of the land". It was provided by a small tribe of Canarsie Indians who inhabited this area. The name was given simply to differentiate it from other Indian villages which were all a part of the Mohawk Indian nation. Reckowacky has also been translated to mean "lonely place", or "place of waters bright". The Rockaway Peninsula remained a beachfront resort town, providing hotels, restaurants, and housing. During the 1890’s, a variety of amusement parks were built. In 1897, the Village of Rockaway Park was incorporated into New York City. There were improvements in transportation, under the direction of Parks Commissioner Robert Moses in the 1930’s, led to the growth of Rockaway. The completion of two bridges, the Marine Parkway Bridge in 1937 and the Cross Bay Bridge in 1939, connected Rockaway to mainland Queens and Brooklyn.
The installation of “Whaleamena,” a sculpture of a whale is a major attraction of the Rockaway Beach that was originally part of the Children’s Zoo in Central Park. It was said that the structure was donated by parks and subsequently restored by local volunteers that is located at the entrance to the Boardwalk at Beach 95th Street. Lifeguards are stationed on the beaches from Memorial Day through Labor Day to secure visitors especially their children. The beach is very popular as a vacation spot because of its advanced transportation that made more distant resorts and summer attractions more accessible and desirable. The development of the elevated subway allowed popular access to the peninsula. Subway access stimulated Rockaway’s transition from a vacation area to neighborhoods with permanent residents.