2007-08-10 / Front Page

Magazine Says Rockaway Is Blighted, Deserted

By Brian Magoolaghan

How rude!

A major magazine disparaged Rockaway this week by printing one of the most unflattering - and inaccurate - blurbs ever written about the peninsula.

New York magazine, which caters to a chichi, in-crowd readership and legions of wannabes, described the peninsula as "The literal end of the line: A blighted, seemingly deserted oceanfront town a universe away from Manhattan."

The backhanded blurb, which unenthusiastically mentions "a long beach strip," appears in "Ten Little Cities," a story in the August 13 issue that asks "What does your New York look like?" The writers suggest that after reading it, you might actually be inspired to visit some of the featured spots, for example, the Prospect Park Audubon Center at the Boathouse, of which the magazine says, "At night, the tiny plaza on the pond becomes the park's most picturesque makeout spot."

The article is loaded with complimentary and alluring descriptions, mostly of places in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Then there's Rockaway, where, apparently, one would only go if blight and desolation is their cup of tea.

The mention concludes with one of the grandest of Rockaway clichés: "once dubbed the Irish Riviera." On a positive note, there is a beautiful color photo of surfers in the ocean.

While Lauren Starke, a spokesperson for the magazine, told The Wave that New York "certainly didn't mean any offense," the blurb was universally interpreted as a jab by those we polled this week.

"When was the last time they went to Rockaway?" wondered Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. "It seems like it was written from a desk and not from an eyewitness account.

"We're creating a rebirth," she said. "What are they talking about?"

City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. said he was going to write a letter to New York's editors and set them straight.

"I think that's really short sighted and narrow minded and written by someone who hasn't stepped foot in Rockaway," said Addabbo. "If you stepped foot in Rockaway you would see how incorrect that is."

Dolores Orr, who chairs Community Board 14, said New York should dispatch a reporter from its office on Madison Avenue the next time it decides to write about Rockaway.

"They obviously have not been out to Rockaway of late and have not paid attention to what's happening," said Orr. "If they had been out to Rockaway they would see the revitalization throughout the entire peninsula and, if they did any research they would know about the plans to further develop the Rockaway area."

Alan Camhi, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways, shared Orr's point of view.

"Those [words] aren't very flattering," Camhi told The Wave. "Evidently [the reporter] must have done that from a far distance, without coming down here to see how things are being done over."

Camhi said the magazine's assertions might have been accurate 20 or more years ago, but pointed to the ongoing population surge and the longawaited development of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area as two sure signs that the magazine's files need updating.

Valerie Smith, a resident of Arverne - one of the most rapidly developing areas in the city - said that while she doesn't agree with the magazine, she has no problem with the perception of outsiders.

"They act like we're a whole different universe," she said. "I have no problem with it. We're the fortunate ones who get to live here."

With a dozen reporters sharing the byline, it was unclear who wrote the bit about Rockaway, but Starke quickly came up with something more flattering to say in a written response to The Wave.

"Rockaway Beach is a great beach getaway for New York romantics. On hot weeks like this one, we'd feel especially lucky to be out there instead of stuck in midtown," she said.

This isn't the first time New York has missed the mark when it comes to Rockaway. The magazine recently said the Rockaway Lobster House is "the closest thing the city has to a genuine surf club." No doubt a kinder review than all of Rockaway received, but nevertheless just as puzzling.

The blurb's assertion that Rockaway seems desolate also doesn't jibe with other information on the magazine's own website. New York's online profile for Rockaway says 4 million people visit the beaches here each summer. That kind of contradiction reminds us of that old Yogi Berra quote, "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

To top it all off, New York ran its square-inch slap in the face under the subhead, "In Brooklyn," which drew chuckles from Councilman Addabbo. "It just kills their credibility," he said.

Michelle Romano contributed to this story.

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