2006-04-07 / Columnists

The Rockaways' Persistent Parking Problem Will Never Be Solved

Long, long ago...in a Rockaway Beach far, far away...an invention called the automobile appeared. Whoever had the first one on the peninsula is not known, nor was the date of the first tire tread-mark in the sand or loam covered street here.

Early automobiles had to come to the Rockaways around the horn, if you will, via Rockaway Turnpike and Far Rockaway. It was not until the opening of Cross Bay Boulevard in 1926 that the auto-induced problem of parking reared its ugly head locally. Vehicles were already being parked everywhere and anywhere, and still in competition with the dwindling amount of horse-drawn carriages and wagons. From 1926 on, existing parking restrictions were changed yearly.

As Fifth Avenue (now Beach 116 Street) slowly became the shopping mecca in the Rockaway Park section, after the demise of the big hotel once called the Imperial Hotel, the automobile was wreaking havoc and causing much alarm on the Grand Old Avenue, from ocean to bay, built to serve the big hotel with a bay dock for steamers bringing patrons and visitors. The entire length of the avenue was filled with wide center malls, fully curbed, with crossover lanes that allowed horse-drawn carriages to change direction without going to the beach or boulevard or bayside to turn around or change direction. Machines did turn differently than a horse and wagon, and the same applied to parking. In the early 1900s the trolley car lines came, only to compound the problems of traffic and parking. The solution was sought in traffic and parking rules and regulations...without studies! Just do it and we'll see how it works out. If not we'll change it for next season. Simple, yes, and all were happy till the summer season came in, and complaint after complaint was heard.

As for Beach 116 Street, the first set of parking rules were implemented in 1925. The trolley line had caused the removal of the center malls south of the boulevard to lay the tracks on the west side of the street. Both trolleys and autos ran helter-skelter north and south, and back-in parking was allowed on the east side, with angle parking on the west side. Incoming trains led to a taxi jam near the train station very often, especially on holidays.

On the south side of the boulevard, parking was along the curbside of both sides, with a turnaround by the low boardwalk: only 18 inches high and 20 feet wide. The planted center mall was still intact, but not for long!

Today's postcard view, taken from atop the Beach 116 Street firehouse, shows what has been discussed today, including a trolley car on its trip to Far Rockaway, heading towards the boulevard tracks. At Beach 84 Street, the trolley turned north to Hammel Station, and then east to Far Rockaway alongside the LIRR track- on its own track. Tune in next week for more!

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