Historical Views of the Rockaways
From The Rockaway Museum
Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator
Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Far! Far! Away! In A Bay! Bay! Bay! Or our Jamaica Bay, yeah! Yeah! There was a great plan unfolded by three forms of government, who, much to our advantage, couldn't get their act together in order to make an east coast seaport out of our estuary.
If this plan had come to fruition, you would not be reading this column today. There would be no Rockaway Beach... and no Wave newspaper!
Described as "this bay, right on the Atlantic Ocean, protected by a rocky rampart, has room for 150 miles of piers, with direct connection to all intercontinental railroads through the connecting railway, and connection to the state canal system by a proposed canal from Flushing Bay," had been authorized by Congress, state and city. The initial appropriation had been made and the estimated cost was $70,000,000.
The words "protected by a rocky rampart" should have rung a bell in your tower. Part of that rampart was installed at Rockaway Point from 1931 to 1933 as a means to prevent sand from moving westward to clog channels as far as Ambrose and Gedney, was actually part of the breakwater for the entrance to Jamaica Bay Harbor
The interior islands were scheduled to be 27 feet above sea level and the peninsula probably the same. That is logical, isn't it?
All these items have been brought out in past Historical Views , as was the fact that an east exit was to be cut to the ocean, as was an inland canal to Great South Bay East to Riverhead, for two-way traffic! Cargo vessels could enter at Montauk Point and have safe inland passage to Jamaica Bay Port and vice versa! The port's intent was good, but cash for construction was argued about...over who should pay for what, who should do this, who should do that...you didn't do this, you didn't do that, or you were to do this before I could do that! Etc., etc., etc.
There were several variations of the configuration for the central harbor islands, and if the harbor were built, how many variations in opinions as to what would be there today can you come up with? A container port? A housing project? A Sargasso sea? A landfill project? An airport?
Imagine the levels of water pollution that would have come about from shipping, sewage and gravitation of bilges, railroad and vehicular traffic, and just plain dumping!
What kind of life would be in the bay during and afterward? Crabs, fish and fuhgeddabouit clams and worms! Imagine the creosote from piling, bulkheads and docks? The EPA would have a ball! As would DEP...not to forget our nostrils!
But our problem today is that Jamaica Bay needs a good flush by one of two ideas. Another inlet or canal at Beach 108 Street, or a solar powered pumping station at Far Rockaway to pump fresh sea water into the bay with a pipeline on the east and north perimeter, with discharge points at well-placed and spaced intervals!