2010-04-23 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The Beach at Far Rockaway… Roche’s and Ostend Private Bathing
From The Rockaway Museum by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
This extremely rare view of the beach at Far Rockaway in 1916 tells a story all its own. It is a story of erosion, erosion protection, property lines, and a few advertising signs to read.

The line of wooden piles from the hard beach area out into the surf is the dividing line between Roche’s Beach in the foreground, and Ostend Beach on the other side east to Beach Ninth Street. Beyond the latter is Simmis/ Coronada Beach and its 23 cottages for rent. The camera is located at about Beach 17 Street, and if the same photo was taken today, the Roy Reuther Houses would be most prominent in the scene.

The Long Beach bar can be seen off in the distance at right center, where the crane is installing piling and bulk heading for shore protection near the Beach 9 Street area. Around this year of 1916, erosion of the beach was beginning to overwhelm the efforts of local beach owners to try to halt the same. At this time they began to ask the city for help, and an engineering study was performed by Charles U. Powell, chief of Queens Borough Engineers. From him came the Powell Report, which studied erosion causes and offered a remedy.

The “Catch 22” in his report was that the city cannot fix up or repair private property with taxpayer monies. If you turn over the oceanfront to the city, they will fix it up.

The strongest recommendation by Powell was that Reynold’s Channel be plugged up, allowing the currents to find another, more natural opening to the sea, somewhere to the east of the present inlet, most likely in Nassau County, probably in Atlantic Beach.

But this report was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and the backs of local beach owners.

Who could tell or force Nassau County to plug the inlet and dig another to the east of the present one?

So, the beach owners gave in to the city (they had no choice) and lost their riparian rights to their beachfronts. In the early 1920s the city took the beachfront to construct a city beach and the boardwalk.

Roche and the owners of Ostend hung on into the 1930s, until death and taxes gave NYC their beach resorts.

A photo studio is just on the other side of the line of piling in the Ostend Bath House and Casino. On the other side of the twin Cupola Ostend Baths is a sign telling of lots for sale in Woodmere, Long Island. The ever present safety bathing lines can be seen everywhere, especially in this area, as the westward movement of Long Beach bar was causing severe erosion at Far Rockaway, Edgemere, and Arverne.

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