City Living: Rockaway Beach
Once known as “New York’s Playground,” Rockaway Beach is on track to reclaim that title — but in a new way.
The Queens neighborhood that housed the former, famous Rockaways’ Playland amusement park might be without a Coney Island-like scene, but a different one is taking hold where trendy restaurants, beach-side bungalows and boutique motels add vibrancy to the seaside community.
Many of the waterfront homes and businesses that were destroyed by Superstorm Sandy reopened for the summer. And the Parks Department is working overtime to rebuild portions of the boardwalk that were completely washed away. Construction has resumed on new town house and condo developments that are aiming to attract more residents.
“After Sandy, the area is surprisingly hot again after [nine] months,” said Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska.
Rockaway Beach takes its name from the largest urban beach in the United States, a seven-mile stretch of sand that extends the entire length of Rockaway Peninsula.
The neighborhood has always attracted surfers because it has the city’s only legal surfing beach, but in the past few years, it has also reeled in young entrepreneurs, artists and families. Gaska says the influx of new residents and visitors — some of whom rent out bungalows for the summer — is a positive force.
In the 1800s and early 1900s, Rockaway Beach was home mainly to Irish immigrants whose descendants remain there today, but now the nabe is just as diverse as the rest of the city. A largely working- and middle-class community, residents take pride in its welcoming ambience, which bodes well with the grand ocean view.
“It’s very community oriented, and it almost has a California-type culture,” Colin O’Leary, an avid surfer and resident who moved to the area last year, said. “You feel like you’re not in New York.”
O’Leary, who is also a real estate agent with Manhattan Residential Group, says a range of people are opting for Rockaway Beach, from folks in their mid-20s and new families to seniors and retirees.
As the influx of establishments promises a trendier place for New Yorkers to play, Rockaway Beach’s residential charm remains. It is captured in its bungalow homes, oceanfront town houses and colonial single-family houses where, on a typical weekend afternoon, residents recline on their balconies and porches, conversing with neighbors or giving directions to visitors.
Need to know
Rockaway Beach is located on the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens. It is bordered to the east by Arverne and to the west by Rockaway Park. Its specific street boundaries begin at Beach 79th Street and end at Beach 108th Street. More »
A train connection to the shuttle train at Broad Channel station. The shuttle goes to Beach 90, Beach 98 and Beach 105 stations. More »
Queens Library Peninsula Branch, 92-25 Rockaway Beach Blvd. 718-634-1110 More »
U.S. Post Office, Rockaway Beach Branch, 90-14 Rockaway Beach Blvd., 718-634-4075 More »
The 100th Precinct at 92-24 Rockaway Beach Blvd. covers Rockaway Beach. According to NYPD CompStat statistics, the murder rate in the area has been relatively low historically. There were seven murders in 1990 and two in 2012. Robberies have significantly decreased, from 279 in 1990 to 53 in 2012. More »
A glance at Bungalow Bar’s façade hides its hidden secret: a large outdoor deck in the rear overlooking Jamaica Bay. It leads to a pier where small-boat owners can dock and grab a bite to eat.
Caracas Arepa Bar
A hot spot among residents and visitors alike, Caracas is located right on the boardwalk. Local bands perform in the outdoor seating area on weekends.
Opened just shy of a month ago, Uma’s, a cozy, brick-walled eatery, serves up Uzbek cuisine.
This pub and restaurant is rumored to be haunted. It’s settled snugly in the basement of an old Victorian beach house and is known for its friendly vibe and famous frozen piña colada with a rum floater.
Sayra’s Wine Bar and Bier Garden
Newly opened Sayra’s takes a step away from the hot dog and frozen-drink vibe generally associated with Rockaway Beach and offers a more elegant atmosphere.
Irish Circle Tavern
This easy going bar is also a local favorite. There’s a bit of everything, from hot wings to jalapeño poppers, wraps, a “build your own” burger and specials, including 50-cent wings and $3 drafts on Mondays.
Boarder's Surf Shop
Superstorm Sandy couldn’t keep this surf shop under for too long. Boarders, like many others affected by the storm, is back in business. The shop rents and sells surfboards as well as basic beach apparel and accessories.
The Blue Bungalow
Located just a few footsteps outside of Rockaway Beach’s western boundary in Rockaway Park, The Blue Bungalow is frequented for its unique gifts, jewelry and home décor, much of it beach inspired.
Boarder's Surf Shop
Boarders offers surfing lessons at Beach 69th Street. You can also rent surf and skateboards from the shop.
Rockaway Jet Ski
Also a popular restaurant and bar with a waterfront back deck, Rockaway Jet Ski promises a thrilling time for adventurous water lovers. Patrons can rent Jet Skis for anywhere from a half-hour to two hours. Full-day and multi-day tours are also offered, promising close-up views of the city’s bridges and the Statue of Liberty. Those looking for a more a tame activity can rent kayaks.
American Princess Cruises
Docked a few neighborhoods west of Rockaway Beach at Riis Landing in Breezy Point, American Princess Cruises takes curious seafaring onlookers of all ages into the Atlantic Ocean on a narrated whale - and dolphin-watching cruise.