2005-12-16 / Columnists

Historical Views

of the Rockaways Was It Isosceles Or Triquetra Or Scalene Or Obtuse Or
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

of the Rockaways

Was It Isosceles Or Triquetra Or Scalene Or Obtuse Or… A Simple Line At A Right Angle?

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

The answer is (supra)- a simple line! And now you want to know what the question is? Well, the question is what is the borderline between Rockaway Park (upper) and Belle Harbor (lower), and when was it laid down and by whom and why?

In 1889, the Rockaway Park Development Company began development of their land at the west end of the peninsula called Rockaway Beach. The east line of Rockaway Park was laid down a distance west of Beach 108 Street, and the west line was a north/ south line, across the peninsula, from the bay to the ocean. On a present-day map, this line would begin at the centerline of Beach 124 Street on the bayfront, and wind up on the beachfront at the centerline of Beach 126 Street. The beach to the west was owned by the West Rockaway Land Company.

The streets in Rockaway Park were laid out using magnetic north as a guide and the Rockaway Park street west of Beach 124 Street would begin at about midpoint of the north/south borderline, and end up at the beachfront as Beach 125 Street.

In 1902, the intended development of Belle Harbor would have had the same problem, but in reverse. Belle Harbor would have had Beach 126 Street ocean to bay, and Beach 125 Street from midline to the bayfront.

So in August of 1902, both the Rockaway Park and Belle Harbor improvement companies took pencil in hand, through their respective lawyers, and drew a line from the bayfront at Beach 124 Street down to the boulevard, then westerly along the boulevard to Beach 126 Street, then south to the low water mark of the ocean. At the time, the two small triangular plots of land contained an almost even amount of land; not enough to talk about! There were a few minor adjustments made along the new line to square off street and property lines. I know, I know, it would have been a lot easier to use the K.I.S.S. principal, and just stick a pin in where the line crossed Beach 125 Street, and just rotate the line to the west on the north, and to the east on the south-right! But the legal mind is a terrible thing to waste on this sort of thing, and square footage meant more!

The right way to do it, in my estimation, would have been to move the new line on a magnetic course to the area between Beach 124 and Beach 125 Street-or-between Beach 125 Street and Beach 126 Street, and one party take a cash settlement for damages (so to speak). The West Rockaway Land Company could have taken the hit, for they were The Belle Harbor Company as well, and had plans for the Neponsit Company too! If they took the hit, future borders would have been moved a mere 125 feet westerly, and no skin off their back, for their land ran to Beach 169 Street.

Here is a short list of heavy hitters in the business and financial world that had to do with west end property (west of seaside, that is) from 1889 to the early 1900s:

Aaron A. DeGrauw

Benjamin Smith

Henry Y. Attrill

DeWitt C. Littlejohn

Alfrederick S. Hatch

J. Pierpont Morgan

Austin C. Corbin

Collis P. Huntington

Andrew K. Van Deventer

The Harriman Estate

Isaac E. Gates

Edward P. Hatch

Fisk & Hatch, Inc.

Frederick J. Lancaster

Charles Raht

I hope I have given you a good angle on an old story that some people refuse to believe to this day! Today it is upper, lower, beach, bay, and believe it or not, The Rockaway Park Estates are in the Holland Section of the peninsula, and Sands Point is now in Seaside. According to the post office, we all live in Far Rockaway, as do the media. A part of Far Rockaway is now known as West Lawrence, and old Irishtown is now a memory. Rockaway Beach takes the place of Hammels, Holland, and Seaside sections, and the Breezy Point Cooperative and Gateway National Park have done away with the Rockaway Point colony and Riis Park, as some knew them.

I now wonder if the beach will become the bayfront that it once was in the late 1600s. That’s the last time that the peninsula was wiped out by a huge hurricane that made Jamaica Bay a part of the Atlantic Ocean, as it was when the Dutch came here in 1624.

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