2003-07-11 / Front Page

Plan Wipes Out Duke Kahanamoku

By Howard Schwach
Plan Wipes Out Duke Kahanamoku By Howard Schwach

In 1983, at the height of the surfing craze in Rockaway and before surfing became a "crime" in Rockaway waters, Beach 38 Street in Edgemere was dedicated by the city to the most famous surfer of all, "Duke" Kahanamoku.

Kahanamoku was an Olympic swimming champion and a movie star when he came to Rockaway in 1912 to promote his sport. The famous surfer gave both swimming and surfing exhibitions at Beach 38 Street at the time Rockaway was a flourishing summer resort for the rich and famous.

The area around Beach 38 Street was planned as a "surfing Mecca" by city fathers and local environmentalists in 1983, when the city enacted a law changing the name of the street to honor the "Father of American surfing."

Now, 20 years later, however, the current plan for the eastern section of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area, which includes the Edgemere area, has demapped the Duke, wiping out all references to him and to surfing.

Bernard Blum, the President of The Friends of Rockaway, a local environmental group, believes that the demapping of the street is part of a more dangerous trend.

"This is symbolic of the problem the entire peninsula is having with beach access," Blum told The Wave. "The issue of waterfront revitalization and access to the water is a very important issue for Rockaway, which is surrounded by water on three sides."

Blum says that the surfers who once braved large waves, muggers and garbage to surf at Beach 38 Street have moved on to Long Beach and Lido Beach, due to the city’s enforcement of its beach rules as well as its inattention to the Edgemere area.

A 1990 development map of the area provided by Blum clearly shows Duke Kahanamoku Street from the boardwalk to Rockaway Beach Boulevard. The name of the street has reverted to Beach 38 Street on recent maps.

City officials were not available for comment at press time.

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