Rockaway Beach has long been sought out by retirees for its ocean waterfront, laid-back vibe and affordable properties.
But today, the Queens neighborhood is becoming increasingly popular among young professionals, and housing prices are rising as a result, according to experts.
“It’s hard to say that one particular group is bigger than the other here but the younger crowd is definitely moving in,” said Cathie Amato, a real estate agent for Citi Habitats who works in the area and lifelong Rockaway Beach resident.
Housing in the neighborhood ranges from private homes with front lawns and backyards, to new condo developments and beach bungalows built in the 1920s.
In the recovery from superstorm Sandy, which badly damaged the Rockaway Peninsula in 2012, new apartment buildings and eateries have popped up, which, along with the beach town-feel, are helping to attract young residents.
Home prices took a hit in the neighborhood after the storm, but have since recovered. From 2012 to 2014, Rockaway Beach’s median recorded sales price dropped by about 43%, from $285,000 to $173,000, according to StreetEasy. However, in 2015, the median sales price was back up to $236,900, the listings site found.
And although sales prices are rising, the neighborhood is still less expensive than many other areas in Queens. The median sales price in the borough as a whole was $358,000, according to StreetEasy.
The median rental price in Rockaway Beach in 2015 was $1,475, compared to $2,100 in all of Queens, the site found.
But although the housing prices are enticing, the nabe remains plagued by its distance from the city — residents face a 11/2-hour commute to midtown on the A train.
Winters on Rockaway can also be brutal as the weather can feel especially harsh near the shore. It’s common for residents to leave town during the cold months, and many of the nabe’s restaurants close for the season.
The main drags for dining are Rockaway Beach Boulevard and the boardwalk, which boasts food and clothing concessions along the waterfront.
Local favorites include Rippers, which sits on the boardwalk and is known for its burgers, and Whit’s End at 97-14 Rockaway Beach Blvd., a pizzeria that offers specialty pies and stays open year-round.
“There’s a skate park, jetties for surfers, places to go day-drinking, and we’re definitely not missing any bars,” said Marco Amaya, 22, a line cook at Tacoway Beach at 302 Beach 87th St., who grew up in the nabe. “There’s something for everybody.”
Surfing, Jet Skiing and fishing are common activities at the beach, which is free to enter and is the only legal surfing beach in the city. A few local shops, such as Boarders Surf Shop at 192 Beach 92nd St., carry surfboards for sale with rental options and also offer surf lessons, while Jet Skis can be rented by the jetty on Beach 92nd Street.
The surf scene is also evident in the local bars and restaurants, many of which have surfboards and framed photos of local surfers on their walls.
“This area so nice, it’s good because it’s possible to surf in the morning and work in the day,” said Carlos Varella, who moved to the area three months ago and is the owner and chef at Beach Bistro 96, a new restaurant at 95-19 Rockaway Beach Blvd. “In the morning I go surfing and at 11 I start to work, this is the life.”
Rockaway Beach is bordered to the south by Shore Front Parkway and the north by Beach Channel Drive. It is bound to the east by Beach 79th Street and the west by Beach 108th Street.