You are watching TV today, tonight and seeing image upon image of a burned out town and hearing about towns under water and partially destroyed. Damage that cannot even be assessed yet.
I want those places to be more than a News Story, more than another horrific image on the news.
Last night, my son and daughter kept complaining of the smell of something burning... complaining as in worrying what was burning and what could be making that horrible smell. There were rumors of the subways on fire or hundreds of fire burning... a hospital in Coney Island was rumored to be burning...
After a while we found out what it was.. it was Breezy Point and I do mean "was" as in 80 homes destroyed.
Images like this in the link above have become iconic images of the destruction caused by Sandy.
Now when you hear Breezy Point or Long Beach, NY you picture this:
Once, a long time ago, at the turn of the century people would take a horse and buggy down to the Rockaways to play at the beach far away from the busy city of Manhattan. At the end of the Rockaways was a place much like Galveston except that Galveston was a busy metropolis compared to Breezy Point and Far Rockaway at the turn of the Century.
It was more like Galveston is now after the Galveston Hurricane.. a place to get away and be by the beach..to get your feet in the sand, stare out at the blue water and feel the breeze. The tip of that peninsula was named "Breezy Point" most likely for the incredible breeze at the tip of land to the south of the City.
There is a very detailed account of how the area grew over time.
"transportation to and from Rockaway originally consisted of horse-drawn carriages and horses. A ferry took passengers from downtown Manhattan to Brooklyn, and by the mid-1880's, the steam railroad succeeded the stagecoach, terminating at the present Far Rockaway station of the Long Island Railroad. Benjamin Mott deeded to the railroad company a seven acre tract of land to be utilized as a railroad depot. The coming of the railroad to Far Rockaway increased land values and resulted in a boom to the businesses in the area. By 1888, the village of Far Rockaway was large enough to apply for incorporation."
There is an even older history that is part of the history of New York, an odd less known history of New York seen only in old movies or fictionalized stories about Turn of the Century New York.
From the same link above another passage that reminds us of the very history of New York.. the many people who came here and their different allegiances.
"After the Revolutionary War most of the British sympathizers choose not to stay and settle in New York. Irish names like Wilson, Everet, Higbie, Innis and Mills are examples of those found in local militia who organized in Hempstead town, which was part of Rockaway at the time, and areas known as Near Rockaway (Oceanside) and Far Rockaway.
During the War of 1812, a block-house was built at the point of the Rockaway peninsula, at approximately Beach 137 street, and manned round the clock by the military of New York City. Irishmen with last names like Finnegan Craig, McGuire, McGowan, Smith and Sweeney served here at Fort Decatur.
During the great Irish immigration to the United States in the mid 19th century, some immigrants settled in Far Rockaway. The "Sons of Ireland" living in Far Rockaway at the time listed names such as: Moran, Caffrey, McCarthy, Kelly, Reilly, Mulhearn, Hickey and Fitzpatrick. They all contributed to the development of the area, which by the 1850's became known as the Irish Saratoga."
When we think of "New Yorkers" today we forget how long it took them to come together as one group, one entity rather than the parts that eventually made up the whole. Crown Heights was Jewish, a boom time turn of the Century community. As the neighborhood changed there was a movement to further out.. to Borough Park.. a community that then became Italian and Jewish. Crown Heights became Orthodox Chassidic Jewish.. mostly Lubavitch as everyone else ran away and Island Blacks from Jamaica, Haiti and other various Caribbean Islands. Queens and the Rockaways was Irish... Put them all together and you get New Yorkers, but back around the turn of the century... the Irish chose Far Rockaway, the Rockaways, Queens and Breezy Point as their particular playground by the Ocean.
A nice website with some beautiful historical images of Far Rockaway and the nearby beach cities.
Fast forward to the 1960s and the Post War Baby Boom.. it became the playground of Queens ...highlighted in postcards for the World's Fair as a beautiful, big, wide beach. Young couples moved out to Queens to raise their family far away from the Lower East Side and Brooklyn in little homes, where they could lead busy, happy lives.
Archie Bunker lived in Queens in the TV Show. A lot of people I know in Miami grew up in Queens, near the stadium..going down to the beach in the summer...living "All American Lives" that their parents worked hard for them to live ... the children of immigrants often if they were Jewish and longer term Americans if they weren't. Queens was neutral.. it wasn't Brooklyn.. it was safe, nice ,quiet and out there ...
These islands in Queens were the playgrounds for kids growing up in Queens. Later, years later many like Long Beach, NY became places older European Jews moved to and retired to live out their lives quietly by the water...away from the big city.
Norman Lear wrote about this in a book, and spoke on the where he got the idea for All in the Family often.
The homes are close together, tightly packed in a small community so when I caught fire in Tropical Storm force winds the fire raced from one house to the next... and the whole community went up in flames.
These were not big water front homes on large lots, just a small community of homes where people enjoyed their time by the water and the fresh air that always blows in Breezy Point.
Ironically, images on Google Earth were taken on a dark gray day in 2007. A building out on the highway on the way out to Breezy Point.
The homes in Breezy Point were packed tight like sardines... summer homes... a place of refuge from the City... not a place of refuge during Hurricane Sandy..
Oddly, earlier this year a tornado happened upon Breezy Point and made the news. Maybe it was a foreshadow of how the summer would end... an omen.. who knows..
This photo provided by Joey Mure, shows a storm cloud over the Breezy Point area of Queens section of New York, on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. (AP Photo/Joey Mure)
This is Long Beach, New York...
.... a "long beach" where people play and live...
with a rich history.. please, please read about the history of Long Beach on this beautiful Website:
Most of these places were put under water by Hurricane Sandy... and some still are under water.
Miraculously there was no loss of life in Breezy Point.. amazingly .. but people lost property and homes.
They lost mementos of a life lived well by the sea.. but not their memories.
I want you to remember it was a vibrant place..and still will be one day when it is rebuilt.
There was a restaurant out there on Breezy Point.. a favorite place to take a date for a romantic dinner.
They were closed Sunday to prepare for Hurricane Sandy...they didn't expect not to reopen on Tuesday.
See reviews below and remember... this was Breezy Point and Long Beach and all the beach towns.
Don't just remember the images of devastation...know there was great history here that has been destroyed.
Ps.. Wish I could have eaten there with some handsome guy looking out at the water ..sounds nice...
Read the history below please...
|Just a few steps from Jamaica Bay Kennedy's offers a stunning view of the Manhattan skyline, fresh sea food, dry aged steaks & chops. A fresh breath of fresh sea breeze air which invigorates the appetite.|
Open lunch and dinner daily. Sunday brunch.
Live entertainment, take out and catering services.
|During the year 1911 Vandeventer started the Rockaway Point company as part of the Southern-Pacific Railway Company. The 900 acre property was to be transformed into a tent city of 1000 tents and several bungalows. There were only six or seven hotels at the point.|
The new city was to have stores, a dance hall, and churches or chapels for various denominations. The lumber for the boardwalks, bungalows, stores and new hotels was to be brought to the point from Sheepshead bay, in Brooklyn, where by boats, the second hand lumber from the old giant hotels being torn down would be loaded up and ferried to the point.
The tearing down of the big hotels had been going on for a time at old Coney Island. It has been reported that whole buildings were also brought over to the point on barges.
Evicted residents of Coney Island were looking for a new area for seasonal and year round shore living. The exodus from Brooklyn to the point was a success, with some bringing their own buildings minus an old kitchen sink or two (If you will!).
|1910 Kennedy's comes to the point.|
A gentleman named Maxwell Kennedy ferried or barged a building over to the point and set it down on pilings at the bay side of the point, at what is at present Beach 210 street north of Rockaway Point Boulevard. Formerly the structure had been at the old Sheepshead racetrack in Coney Island, but now it was Kennedy's Pavilion at Rockaway Point.
In later years the place was known as Kennedy's Casino, with a huge sign on the roof that said such, and as the Breezy Point Hotel.
During the winter of 1919, in February, Kennedy's dock and pavilion were saved from being blown off the face of the earth by a time span of ten or so minutes - by the clock! Naval personnel from the air station to the east were to transfer a new type of underwater depth bomb to the Rockaway Shoals area on the beach side of the point. The six men brought the bomb loaded with 120 pounds of TNT to Kennedy's dock by boat, and from there on it was necessary to carry the devise full of TNT to the beach side. Ten minutes after they started to trek along the beach sand and about five hundred feet from Kennedy's the bomb exploded. The explosion left a big crater in the sand and the sailors that were carrying the bomb were not to be found. Why this particular route was taken is still a mystery, but at this time all americans were patriots... and America and the protection of our country came first above all! `
|By 1920 there were 2250 bungalows in the point colony, and tenants united against the Rockaway operating company. This is when the Rockaway Point Association and the Roxbury Association were formed. The battle was long and hard until the final victory came with the incorporation of Breezy Point Cooperative in the years before Gateway National Recreation area moved in on the point, when common sense was in vogue here in New York city. But that story would fill volumes... and it did!|
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