2003-08-29 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

From The Rockaway MuseumDedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
The West End Of Amstel Boulevard Before Landfill And Development
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Historical Views

Historical Views
of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
The West End Of Amstel Boulevard Before Landfill And Development

Long, long ago…. in a Rockaway Beach so far, far away…. on the bay side of West Arverne… two creeks came to the southeast, between the present Beach 75 and Beach 72 Streets – and merged just above the railroad (now the "A" line to Far Rockaway) at the west side of Beach 72 St. Between these two creeks were two marsh islands known as Horse Hassock, which is today the city parkland (?) known as Terrapin Point.

Barbadoes Creek, on the left side or west line of Horse Hassock, known to us at present as Barbadoes Basin…. Once ran along the railroad, to the east, and then curved northeast at the present Beach 59 St., where it was connected to the present Somerville Basin thereat. It was then one long creek shaped like a bow with the ends curving upwards.

On the east shore of Horse Hassock was Horse Creek, which joined the Barbadoes Creek just above the railroad and on the west side of Beach 72 Street. Today we know Horse Creek as Vernam Basin! So much for geography!

When the LIRR took over the Bay Railroad in 1887, many repairs and route changes were made. One was to rebuild the worm eaten trestle using creosoted timber and piling, and the other was a route change, which caused the track line from Far Rockaway to be cantilevered north at Beach 56 Street…. and connected to he trestle at Hammels Station… where the trestle began the Bay crossing on the peninsula.

The LIRR, in conjunction with the development of Arverne at the same time, filled in the Barbadoes Creek; this operation serving both interests.

Then in 1913, Mr. William Scheer had Horse Hassock bulkheaded and filled in with bottom sand dredged from Barbadoes Creek and Beach Channel to the north. The head of Barbadoes and Horse Hassock Creeks were now dry land, as was the area south of the present Amstel Boulevard, from about Beach 77 Street to Beach 72 Street. William Scheer was a diamond merchant in New York, and owned a great deal of property in West Arverne. His home was on the northwest corner of Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Beach 72 Street. On the bayfront on Beach 73 Street, he owned and operated the Black Diamond Coal Company, which supplied dealers with coal for retail sale to residents. The coal was brought in by barge to Scheer’s Coal Pocket. Vernam Basin and Somerville were dredged out in 1926, to make them deeper for commercial interests.

In later years this area of West Arverne has been party to a bungalow colony, a boat yard, a lumber company (Schonk), the Ben Rigel Lumber and Supply Company, the Singer and Kelly Coal and Oil Company, the Jamaica Bay Towing Company, a fuel oil depot, and at present the John Quadrozzi Concrete and Construction Material Recycling Complex. A boat storage yard, junkyard, private home, and Ritondo’s Dock Inn also shaped some of this land.

The Brooklyn Day Camp at Beach 75 and Amstel Boulevard, later replaced Schonk Lumber Yard and a local sewer department yard was at the southeast corner of Beach 75 Street and Amstel Boulevard; a NYC Parks Department Yard at present. Some old-timers may remember the Bernard E. Fallon Construction and Supply Company in the area as well. Today it is a church.

This week’s Historical View shows an ad from a 1925 Wave for the Ben Rigel Lumber and Supply Company, and a story about the East Amstel site when the Singer and Kelly Company took it over in 1930. The Rigel Lumber Company is still in business near Redfern in Far Rockaway.

On the south side of Amstel Boulevard, between Beach 72 and Beach 73 Street, we cannot forget the August Bellon Iron Works which became the NYC Sanitation garage, and, at the opposite end, the Anthony Rivara Construction Company Yard at East Amstel Boulevard. This site, once productive, has been taken over by the NYC Parks Department, and has been fenced and dormant for many years. By the time the city makes a park there, erosion on the bayside will have eaten it away. When the FAA had the site, they filled in the bay end with solid construction debris…. but I guess the city knows better, doesn’t it? At present the point is tick infested as it always was, when old Bill the Hermit lived there with his pack of dogs.

Every businessman that has operated in this area of West Arverne has been a pillar to the community and the Rockaways. The present business in the site is that of Mr. John Quadrozzi, a Rockawayite, who owns and operates the Quadrozzi Concrete Company. Mr. Quadrozzi has been located there since the early 1960’s, and has served the Rockaways in many ways during his tenure in the West Arverne area.

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