2009-02-13 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Erosion Study Of Rockaway Beach Made By The City Of New York
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

A fter World War One, the federal government and civilian authorities took a good look at the airplane, and the possibilities it offered, in the

making of maps and development plans … through the use of aerial

photography. Early on, photographs from the air were used to supplement the work of the ground surveyor.

Pictures of our eroding beachfront and of Jamaica Bay before and during the construction of Crossbay Road have turned up in libraries and on a few antique postcards. Some were noted as having been taken by the army air wing operating out of Fort Tilden at Rockaway Point.

Todays view is of 1920 vintage, and is an aerial oblique view of our beachfront from about Beach 71 Street, eastward to Edgemere in the distance.

The tide is low, and it can be easily seen that the boardwalk has a huge gap (storm damage) from Beach 67 Street (to right of center) down to Beach 60 Street, where a jetty is seen jutting out into the surf. The erosion at Edgemere is evident, as shown by the encroachment of King Neptune. In the right background is the giant Edgemere Club Hotel at Beach 35 Street.

The postmark date is 1920, but the photo was taken after the great big damaging storm of 1914, that took several hundred feet of Arverne's walk, plus a large theatre on the beach side at Beach 67 Street (the Arverne Pier Theatre and Dancehall and Pavillion). The eastern end of the Arverne Walk was closed and condemned by the city. Another damaging storm hit in 1920, and frustrated those trying to hold on to their beaches with all sorts of erosion remedied!

Complaints to the city fell on deaf ears, due to the fact that the city could not use public funds to fix private property. The city would have to secure ownership of beachfront property in order to create a public beach.

Transfer to the city by condemnation took place, and by the mid-1920s work was begun on a new concrete and wood boardwalk, and the eroded beaches were dredge filled, with wooden jetties out into the surf for several hundred feet.

This worked fine until erosion woke up again in the storms of 1973.

If You have Any Old Photos or Historical Information About The Rockaways Please Send It To: HISTORICAL ROCKAWAY C/O THE WAVE P.O. BOX 930097 ROCKAWAY BEACH, N.Y. 11693

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