Breezy Point

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Of course, nobody wants to sleep with the fish, but it is fun to check them out in their natural habitat for a few hours every now and then. Summer is whale- and dolphin-watching season in Queens, and American Princess Cruises offers four-hour trips from the Rockaways through local waterways to observe the marine ecosystem as well as seabirds, turtles, seals and other aquatic creatures…and hopefully spot a whale or dolphin. According to the Coastal Research and Education Society of Long Island, about 25 whale species — including fin, humpback, and sperm — and bottlenose dolphins swim in New York City and Long Island waters during the warm weather months.

Details: Whale and Dolphin Watching, Riis Landing, Rockaway Point Boulevard at Heinzelman Road, Breezy Point, now through August with special trips during the fall, usually noon to 4 pm, $45 for adults/$35 for seniors/$25 for children.

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Kevin Walsh and I were chatting recently, and it was decided that we should go out to the Rockaways and do a bit of exploring. We agreed to not reference a certain song as well. Leaving from Astoria, an R Line train carried me to 59 Lex, and that’s where I transferred to the 5 Line. The 5 took me the end of the run, nearby Brooklyn College at the so called Flatbush Junction. That’s where Mr. Walsh and I had arranged to meet, which was accomplished, and we boarded the Q35 bus toward Rockaway. All told, the trip from Steinway Street in Astoria to the southern border of Brooklyn and Queens took a little more than an hour and 20 minutes.

That really isn’t bad, I have to say, bravo MTA.

We debarked the bus just shy of our goal, on the Brooklyn side of the Gil Hodges Marine Parkway Bridge. The span’s birthday is coming up on July 3rd — read more about the structure in this Q’stoner post from January of this year.

This is a pretty scary place to be a pedestrian crossing the road, I have to say. Luckily, the plucky spirit of my companion buoyed me up. Our intention, upon crossing the very end of Flatbush Avenue, was to stroll across the bridge and photograph both it and the surrounding scenery… but…

Unfortunately 911 era signage adorns the thing, carrying one of those meaningless and unconstitutional missives which attempted to equate photography of the public space with terrorist activity. This is an MTA bridge, by the way, but you see this sort of signage on TBTA and Port Authority properties as well. I won’t get into the whole “War on Photography” rant, but you can’t expect to restrict access to reflected light.

Shame on you MTA.

Luckily, on the Queens side of the bridge, the structure reveals itself from the public thoroughfare. Kevin and I marveled as the lift bridge was activated just as we started encountering beach sand on the sidewalks.

There was quite a bit of shoreline reconstruction going on just at the foot of the bridge. The presence and effects of Hurricane Sandy are everywhere you look in the Rockaways, although some areas we encountered are clearly FAR worse off than others.

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This photograph of Kennedy’s Restaurant in Breezy Point appeared on Twitter yesterday with the note, “Looking forward to Kennedy’s opening…it looks so nice…thank you to all who helped!” The historic restaurant, located right on the waterfront with views of Manhattan, opened in 1910 and was originally a casino. (You can read the fascinating history of the place over here.) According to the Kennedy’s website, the goal is to reopen by this summer. GMAP

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A winner has been announced for Urban Green Council’s R3build contest, which asked architects to design a single-family home for a post-Sandy Breezy Point, one that could be constructed for $150,000 or less. The winning design, rendered above, is by the Australian architects Rayne Fouche and Larissa Searle. New York Daily News reports that it’s a prefab, solar-powered home with debris-proof windows dubbed the “Bayside Bunker.” NYC-based architects came in second and third place, proposing trellises and decks to help protect against future storms. The contest applicants designed for an actual Breezy Point property in which the home was totally destroyed by the storm — the property owners have promised to consider using some of the winning designs for the rebuilt house.

New Proposed Design for Breezy Point Homes is Affordable and Storm-Proof [NY Daily News]

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As much as I love LIC, a fellow has to spread his wings now and then, and wet his beak.

I grew up in south eastern Brooklyn, in particular the Flatlands and Canarsie area. Our nearest neighbors in Queens were in Howard Beach and the Rockaway Peninsula villages of Rockaway and Breezy Point. A significant portion of my wastrel youth was spent riding an Apollo 3 speed bicycle along the coastlines of Jamaica Bay and it’s various inlets, as I’ve always been drawn to the water by some primeval urge. Whenever the chance presented itself, I would ride my bike over to Rockaway Beach via a bridge found on the less commonly travelled side of Flatbush Avenue.

Much of this coastline is administered today as “Gateway National Park,” incidentally, which sounds a lot better than “Horsehead Bay,” I guess.

From Wikipedia:

Gateway National Recreation Area is a 26,607-acre (10,767 ha) National Recreation Area in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Scattered over Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island, New York and Monmouth County, New Jersey, it provides recreational opportunities that are rare for a dense urban environment, including ocean swimming, bird watching, boating, hiking and camping. Ten million people visit Gateway annually.

Gateway was created by the US Congress in 1972 to preserve and protect scarce and/or unique natural, cultural, and recreational resources with relatively convenient access by a high percentage of the nation’s population. It is owned by the United States government and managed by the National Park Service.

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New construction is rising in Breezy Point, the Rockaway beach community totally devastated by Hurricane Sandy. The storm left around 350 of 2,800 homes completely destroyed and the rest badly damaged. But the New York Daily News reports that construction’s started on about half a dozen new homes, with The Breezy Point Cooperative currently looking through 70 building plans from residents. (This is in contrast to the New York Times’ assertion just last week that reconstruction has started on only one home thus far.) The News profiles a family who replaced their destroyed house with a modular build on top of an eight-foot high concrete base. The modular homes take five days to build and two weeks to assemble. So far about 60 percent of the community has returned — turns out many Breezy residents faced holdups securing building permits because their houses were not on city-mapped streets.

First New Breezy Point Homes Are Starting to Rise After Superstorm Sandy [NY Daily News]
Photo by NYC Department of Transportation / Stephen Mallon

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When Hurricane Sandy hit last year, water and fire damage destroyed approximately 350 out of the 2,800 homes in Breezy Point, a cooperative community on the Queens waterfront. As of today, reports the Wall Street Journal, only one house–a wooden affair at 10 Gotham Lane–has risen from the wreckage. Residents point the finger at a maze of governmental red tape as the reason so little progress has been made. “It’s at times very frustrating when you meet a roadblock, a wheel of bureaucracy. You’re put through a drawn-out process of facing a bunch of objections to what you’ve submitted,” said Arthur Lighthall, general manager of the private community’s cooperative. “They have rules and regulations, they have codes, they have zoning. The system makes it very difficult for anyone to maneuver around it.” One big problem: City maps on file didn’t even correctly reflect the street grid. Another snag: Many residents lost their records in the storm. On top of that, it took FEMA many months to release new flood zone information. Residents just want to get back to the way things were. “This community will always consist of individual one- and two-story houses,” said Lighthall. “That’s what we want to see. We are not interested in new development and major changes.
Recovery Is Choppy in Breezy Point [WSJ]

Photo from Breezypointdisasterrelief.org