2012-06-22 / Columnists

It’s My Turn

Bungalow Haven Right In Your Own Backyard
By Janine Ganas Local Freelance Writer

As a lover of the sea, I’ve always been a romantic for the classic bungalow in a beach community. I moved to Broad Channel as a young teen, went to school in Rockaway, and grew up in and around the peninsula.

While looking for a cottage style house many years later, a realtor advised me to read an article in the NY Times about the historic bungalows in Far Rockaway on Beach 24 through 26 Streets. Then I took my first ride to the area, and I must say that I’ve been hooked ever since. I began by looking into buying a unit and decided I wanted to take a small part in the efforts of locals to improve the area. I started my research and learned of the (BBPA), the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association.

BBPA is an organization that was founded in the early ’80s and obtained non-profit status in 1988. There are nine board members. I met with Executive Director Richard George, one of the early pioneers who has been involved in the restoration and preservation of these bungalows for 25 years. He’s also a year-round resident who owns, lives, and works in a couple of the seaside beauties.

A quick historical recap – the bungalows began in the early 1900s when the structures housed summer residents who were employed in the garment district.

Original zoning was revised in the 1930s for year-round occupancy. In the 1940s, post-war residents took refuge in the small cottages to give hope to future generations. Many owners were POWs. Once there were 7000 structures along the Rockaway shoreline, but today have been reduced to about 700.

There were several events which occurred that affected the bungalows. The jet age had people traveling further for work and urban housing developments were constructed throughout the Rockaways.

Many bungalows were boarded up or leased out as low income rentals. Some were winterized and some were not. Also, people were moving out to the suburbs. A few were passed down through generations. Many lots were leased out or abandoned.

During the ’60s, the Lindsay Administration condemned much of the properties that landlords didn’t keep up and as a result, 300 acres were demolished.

The Astor Foundation provided funding for Neighborhood Improvement Projects which included beautification of the area.

In 2005, New York State approved the area as eligible for Historic Preservation. The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 established a Federal Coastal Zone Boundary so the structures built in the area could not exceed two stories with one family.

I also had the opportunity to sit with Al and Carmela George, the parents of Richard George. They, too, own a bungalow on Beach 24 Street and are actively involved in the organization. Mrs. George alone raised funds to employ an expert consultant to obtain the placement of the on the National Registry List. As a result, the structures were approved for detailed description of each building layout, and social history and community development will be documented.

Presently the area itself is depressed. One must look at what lies beneath, as I have, to recognize its intrigue. I asked the Georges what was in store for the future or what their hopes would be. They would like to see an improvement in the access areas, landscaping and signage.

Many professionals including doctors, lawyers, writers, and architects are moving into the area and will continue to do so if things improve. The boardwalk has been redone and the beaches are pristine with views of Long Beach and the Rockaways. These homeowners feel the area could use lifeguards, police on foot patrol, concessions, bathrooms, chair rentals, and possibly cabanas similar to what they had years ago along the seaside.

They could also use a local market, bakery, drug store, and better security for the community. This will bring in families and people who take care of their property.

Additionally, they feel that with new potential buyers and selective rental properties, the locale could rejuvenate immensely. In closing, I have been intrigued with this area since my first visit.

If there are any investors, or builders interested in buying or reconstructing replicas of the original bungalows, the area’s value will increase and improve dramatically.

This would also be a great opportunity for small business owners.

Please contact the BBPA for more information online. You’ll fall in love with this Bungalow Haven just the way I have.

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