Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Far, Far Rockaway

The other day I traveled by subway to Far Rockaway, that distant, peninsular outpost in Queens that owing to its miles of beaches, soothing sea breezes, and remote location was once the summer destination for celebrities like W.C. Fields and Mary Pickford. Now quite a few people live there but very few come to visit. It is depressed economically and is still thought to be somewhat difficult to reach. In general, Far Rockaway doesn’t appear to have a whole lot going for it, except maybe the beach. In my case, I was making the trip to visit a teacher I know. I personally did not find it to be a particularly long journey. You can get there via the A Train in less than an hour. That is, if you don’t continue north to Lefferts by mistake, because you forgot to transfer at Rockaway Avenue (there’s a Rockaway Boulevard, too!! And neither have anything to do with Far Rockway!). In that case, it takes a whole lot longer.

I enjoyed myself, though. The last third of the trip goes out across Jamaica Bay and you feel like you’ve entered into a different world. You can just about reach out and touch the water as the train goes rumbling by, and you can’t help but notice that you are traveling on a little sliver of landfill and bridges constructed just for the purpose of extending the subway to this far flung, slightly exotic place.

As you may have heard, Flushing, Queens is now one of the most diverse areas in the world. Something like 150 languages are spoken there and the streets are lined with a huge variety of ethnic restaurants that reflect the tastes of the residents. Far Rockaway, too, has become known for its diversity and boasts a large Orthodox Jewish community, a burgeoning African American population, and a variety of relative newcomers from Guyana, Guatemala, Russia, and the Ukraine. The housing market was hit especially hard in Far Rockaway, but a new day may be coming as some beautiful beach front condominiums can now be had for real bargains. As I walked from the train station to the school where I was expected, I was struck by the tranquility of the place but also by how many energetic conversations could be overheard on the street and on people’s doorsteps. Something tells me that, like Flushing, Far Rockaway is a comer and may yet return to its former glory. And, really, it’s not that hard to get there as long as you can keep your Rockaways straight!


  1. I like posts like this that make me get the maps out and see the connections. While I have no knowledge whatsoever of Far Rockaway, I do know that living near the beach is good. Don't count them out.

  2. You are forgeting one thing & that is Far rockaway real estate is quite inexpensive for an area that has exclusive shopping around the corner in Cedarhurst,unfortunately there is no shopping in downtown Far rockaway ,however in time things will turn & as the artists from mahattan come in due to being priced out of the areas closer to the city , the residents of the villages of Lawrence ,Cedarhurst & woodmere will come shopping in downtown Far rockaway instead of the reverse. It is is just a matter of time.