2013-03-15 / Top Stories

The Changing Face of Rockaway

By James McKenna

As Rockaway continues its 21st century journey, many of the 20th century landmarks, once a familiar part of the landscape, continue to fade away. This month’s razing of the Beach 75th Street oil tank and yard was a melancholy reminder of that.

The property known as Bay Terminal of Rockaway, operated by OSI/old Morris Oil, was for 70 years an active hub of oil storage and transport. It linked generations of residents and families through home deliveries and late night service from its dead end base at Beach 75th Street and Amstel Boulevard.

Rockawayites passing by the old Brooklyn Day Camp or peering through an A train window will recall its signature six story gray ‘birthday cake’ oil tank that stood on Jamaica Bay’s edge for nearly 50 years. Many a day’s play at the camp during the 60’s and 70’s took place in its looming shadow. Many a midnight oil delivery came through the behemoth and its neighboring mid-1940’s era tanks.

From post war to post 9/11, this small facility provided much of the heat and hot water that served yesteryear’s Rockaway winters and summers.

When Hurricane Sandy struck, Jamaica Bay’s waters enveloped the seven decade old yard and lifted the big tank off its base, which proved fatal. When Rockaway cheered OSI’s decision to best serve Rockaway from the company’s working Oceanside base, rather than salvage the inoperable site, it was the terminal’s death knell.

February’s razing of this WWII era oil yard ends an era that embodied much of Rockaway’s old core: Unheralded and utilitarian to the eye, but exuding the comforts of a well run engine that you could always count on being there and taking care of you.

And as it appeared in life, an unspectacular but steady fortress adorning the inlet, this old Rockaway pillar now passes into history...unheralded.

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