2010-10-08 / Columnists

Historical Views of the Rockaways

The LIRR Depot and Plaza Far Rockaway, New York … 1912
From The Rockaway Museum Commentary by Emil Lucev, Curator Dedicated To The Memory Of Leon S. Locke
In today’s view, we are standing next to the camera, positioned to the left of the Far Rockaway National Bank building on Central Avenue’s west side, about 100 feet north of Mott Avenue. The building still stands at the same spot today, as a memorial to the old days at Far Rockaway.

From this spot, we get a full frontal view of the Far Rockaway LIRR Station building in about 1912. Horse carriages can be seen at the left in the pickup and taxi waiting area of the station, and one horseless carriage is at the center of the building, where is located the main entrance to the ticket office and waiting room. Freight facilities were on the opposite or north side/end of the station.

The track of the Far Rockaway Trolley Line down Central Avenue to the Beachfront is shown curving to the front of the station, but a touchup man has washed out most of same for picture clarity.

Most of the iron trolley poles have also been washed out. These held power cables for the trolley car line, which switched from horse drawn cars to electrically driven ones in 1898.

The horse trolleys entered the station at the left, and turned into same between Beach 21 and Beach 22 Street from Mott Avenue.

The electric trolley did the same until 1900, and also came to the station’s main entrance, but in that same year the trolley track was moved to the position shown today for a direct exit to Central Avenue.

The track that goes straight off to the right, at lower right, was for trolleys coming from Valley Stream and the Five Towns area to the Beach in summer. This track ran alongside the bank building. A few years later the trolley terminal at the station was moved to the north end of the station shown at right center.

Battery operated trolleys were also experimented with, but did not prove to be useful on the run to the beach, part of which was uphill on the way back, and not so good for a low battery!

A close look with a printer’s glass shows a train in the station, and the trolley to the west end on the far track in the station yard.

As years went by the station plaza became a parking lot and a bus depot after the trolley line gave up the ghost, if you will! A large building which contained a plaza stationary and drug store, a restaurant, and retail plus office space on the second floor, was put up at Mott and Central on the northwestern corner. This gave the Plaza and Depot for buses, trains and trolleys a sort of boxed in look!

All went well for the station plaza depot until 1957, when somebody did believe that Far Rockaway could use a shopping center … instead of all the businesses that had lined the streets in the heart of the village for five score and ten years.

So avarice and shortsightedness eliminated the station plaza and depot, and ironically … was wanted back again after a very short time.

With the coming of the subway to Far Rockaway, the LIRR station should have been left where it was, as well as the bus depot. With the bank building closed, this structure could have been remodeled and enlarged, and the 101 Police Precinct moved to the site. Parking lots could have been injected around this well protected transportation hub … and businesses left where they were.

I have heard that some retail and other businesses that were left were being asked or being pressured to move into the shopping center. Was the threat of higher rents, with lower same in the center, being used as a lever? That, I am afraid to say, will never be admitted to by anyone.

I do not believe that any business(es) moved off the streets and avenues of Far Rockaway. They just closed, one by one, and left big holes, especially on Central Avenue and Mott Avenue and Cornaga Avenue, etc. Then the magic word of R E V I TAL I ZAT I O N! was heard all over the area, an area best described by bus driver Ralph Kramden, when he said, “Baby, you’re the greatest!”

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