2009-05-15 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

Where The Elite Met To Eat In Broad Channel Many Years Ago!
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke

In the very early 1930s Meyer and Bella Weiss leased about 17 lots of land in Broad Channel from Pierre Noel's Broad Channel Corporation. The Broad Channel Corporation had leased the entire group of marsh islands from Goose Creek South to Big Egg Marsh (and then some) in 1915, and began to develop what we know today as the Jamaica Bay community of Broad Channel.

Many acres of Big Egg Marsh had already been dredge filled from the bay bottom in the late 1890s by the defunct Jamaica Bay trolley line, and Pierre Noel began by creating a group of canals on the west side with fingers of land between on which to build houses. He also created the present stretch of Crossbay Boulevard, from the north end of the channel to the Crossbay Veterans Memorial Bridge.

The City of New York and Pierre Noel were always at odds over who said this and that, and who was supposed to do this and that, and when Crossbay Road was planned over Jamaica Bay, the plan called for a straight road down to the bridge plaza, running diagonally through Noel's canal development.

The matter was settled in the courts, and the infamous dead man's curve was built turning to the east and down to connect to the road Noel had built through the center of Broad Channel.

Crossbay Road was completed and officially opened at the start of the 1926 summer season, and development of roadside businesses began in earnest. Among them was Weiss' restaurant, which became an institution in Broad Channel over the years.

Although times were bad (the Great Depression of the 1930's just beginning) Weiss' survived, and the only time operations ceased was during World War Two; no gas, no cars running, and no people coming down to the beach and a roadside restaurant. Weiss' reopened in the closing months of the 1943 season, as gasoline rationing was eased up a bit, and stayed open 24/7.

The year 1949 saw a great remodeling improvement in the form of a 200- foot service counter, tables and chairs with a seating capacity for 750 cash customers, and a parking lot for 650 cars.

Later on more parking was made available on the west side of Crossbay Boulevard.

The much improved dining room on the south end of the place was very comfortable and pleasant for the diners, and the service - as well as the menu - was excellent.

Anything could be had from a hot dog to a prime rib dinner, but the favorite of many was the chow mein on a hamburger bun, served on a plate with all the trimmings. Sandwiches tasted great and the smell of French fries was overpowering - you had to have some. As for drinks, you name it, you got it, even a glass of plain water.

To get to Weiss' you had to go over the bridge to the channel… and the toll was one big dime … that's right… ten cents!

Weiss' closed it's doors in the 1970s, a victim of changing times, and rowdy patrons causing customers to go elsewhere. The land was cleared by demolition and the present Broad Channel Library and playground occupy the old Weiss' site in Broad Channel.

Comparable to Nathan's Famous at Coney Island … Weiss' landmark eatery was sorely missed, and remains a fond memory to old timers. Just ask one!

The rest rooms at Weiss' place were comfortable and spacious for the ladies, and the gentlemen were treated to standing urinals as big as bathtubs … the likes of which can still be seen at McSorely's Old Ale House in Lower Manhattan.

If you missed … you were in bad shape! They were real porcelain classics!

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Weiss' was truly a great place to eat! Another
landmark gone. I'll throw out a few more that when I visit Rockaway, is nothing but a "dream."
Rohr's, Mammes', Admiration, The Original Rogoffs'
Harbor Bakery, Neimans Drug Store, Fitzgerald's
Troutmans, Duddy's Harry Neimath, Sullivan's Bar,
Gilroy's, Dirty Irv's. I'm sure a few have some
great memories as well.

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