2004-10-22 / Columnists

Historical Views

Goose Creek And The Raunt
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

From The Rockaway Museum
by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

of the Rockaways

The small colony of Goose Creek began the same as Broad Channel and the Raunt; after the railroad came. Located at the north end of Goose Hill Channel, that ran south between Black Bank Marsh and Rulers Bar Hassock, the site gave access to the best weak fishing are in Jamaica Bay (New York Times, 1883).

Oystermen and fishermen had shacks and shanties all over the bay to store equipment and live during the summer season, and the Goose Creek area was no exception. They and squatters became the future bay businessmen after the coming of the railroad. They built floats and rented boats as well as fishing gear to the hordes of anglers coming to fish in the bay. Of course their respective operations were accomplished under the blind eye of the revenue seeking LIRR, and all were connected to the trestle by catwalks and platforms.

Just as the Raunt required in 1888, a station and platform were built by Phillip Schappert, who leased sections of the railroad right of way on both sides (300’s x 48’) for this purpose. A hotel and fishing station were also stipulated in the lease to Schappert. A directory published in 1894 listed the following for Goose Creek; Amphion Fishing Club, Lexington Fishing Club, L.C. Babcock-Boats, L.C. Babcock-Liquors, and Phillip Schappert Liquors. By the time that the bay trolley scheme came to be (1899) there were six fishing stations, two saloons and one hotel at Goose Creek. Between the turn of the century and 1925, the structure count rose to 38. New names were the Pioneer Clubhouse, Haslach’s Hotel, houses by John C. Burntee, a house by William Schvette, a house by William Finkelmeir, Joe Paul’s Hotel, The Jamaica Bay Rod and Gun Club, and new proprietors like Elizabeth Hesbach, H. Jalpner Hanson and George J. Grogan. During prohibition when the sale of alcoholic beverages was forbidden, the bay colonies, all became headquarters for bootleggers and rumrunners, who were smuggling booze and beer by boat.

When Crossbay Boulevard came, Goose Creek also lost exclusive status and could be reached now by car, and a footbridge from the roads landfill. There were twenty leases at Goose Creek at this time, and later storms and fire caused the population to dwindle, and this style of living gradually faded away with the new generation. All the colonies were frequently raided by the booze police, and a few arrests were made now and then for show. The raids peaked in 1932 and the Volstead Act was repealed in the following year.

The increased dredging of Jamaica Bay for deeper channels and landfill around the bay’s perimeter, and especially areas in the center of the bay wiped out – repeat, wiped out – what was once described as the best fishing grounds within 250 miles of New York City. The great spawning ground for weakfish and the rest was trounced on for greed and profit. The ones who were responsible for this mess have left us with a dead bay.

When the widening of Crossbay Road came in 1938-1939, more creeks were filled in for this project, and by 1940 only stumps that once supported a vigorous fishing mecca remained.

Broad Channel has only survived through the guts and perseverance of its residents who were at war with the Co-Operative Society of New Jersey, the Broad Channel Corporation, the Docks Department of New York City, New York City itself, Pierre Noel, Robert (Pharoah) Moses, and above all, Mother Nature. They won out over all except Mother Nature, and at present environ/mentalists as well as the governmental departments of Environmental Protection are now giving Channelites agida.

As mentioned previously, we have only blown the dust off and scratched the surface of the history of Broad Channel, the Raunt, and Goose Creek. There are wide gaps in my research on the sites and I have just purchased a bigger shovel. My feet are soaked.

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