2010-03-26 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Riis Park Beach, Bath House, and Parking Lot from the Air…1995
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
Looking clean, neat and tidy, and ready for business, the Riis Park Bath House strikes an impressive pose in this 1995 aerial view of the Riis Park Bathing Beach.

The main entrance to the Riis park-ing field is at top right, very empty, as it is the off-season.

Jamaica Bay and Beach Channel Drive are at the top, and the Marine Parkway/Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge is out of sight at the top left. The approaches to the parking field end at a cul-de-sac off to the left and not shown.

Riis Park, Located between Fort Tilden (to the left) and Neponsit (to the right) was purchased by the city of New York for the creation of a public park in 1911. Prior to the park a children’s beach summer camp was located here.

Development by NYC was slow and not steady, and finally, when Robert Moses came into power as the New York City Commissioner of Everything, Riis Park was finally completed. The bath house was opened in 1937 and led a modest existence for many years.

In the 1960s, the city decided that it could no longer afford to run Riis Park and it turned over to the federal government as part of its planned Gateway Urban Recreation Area. That put an end to the idea of some who wanted to build a city of hi-rise projects at Breezy Point, which was also to become part of the national park.

Riis Park was at first to be named in memory of Cullulloo Telewana, the last surviving Algonquin Indian.

The name was changed to honor Jacob Riis, the champion of the poor in the inner city, who was always trying to get places where the poor could get some fresh air and sunshine.

Personally, I would like to see the name changed back to honor our Native Americans.

At the same time Robert Moses was developing Riis Park, many, but slow as usual, improvements were being made on the peninsula.

At the time, Moses was accused of diverting funds for beach improvements to his Riis Park Project.

Of course Moses denied it, and his accusers were said to have suffered his wrath from then on.

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