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.
This project — construction workers were milling around “doing stuff” just out of frame — seemed to be the installation of some sort of netting over a berm of “rip rap.” Some of the hard hats were installing vegetation.
The first thing you’ll notice when leaving the bridge, other than the VERY Robert Moses looking cloverleaf of highway on and off ramps, is the old Coast Guard station. This was the USCG’s Rockaway Point Station, which was first set up all the way back in 1849. I’m not sure of exactly when this building dates to, but interestingly enough, there used to be railroad tracks alongside it.
The lookout tower is iconic, and just seems to be haunted. Nearby was Ft. Tilden, and an Army Reserve Center. The whole shebang is part of Gateway National Recreation Area today, and this spot is specifically referred to as Riis Landing.
The day was growing warmer, and Mr. Walsh repeatedly expressed his desire to see the vast field of cement that is the Riis Park parking lot. We made our way along the pedestrian path.
I have fond remembrances of this place. The part of Brooklyn which I grew up in was a short distance away, and I often wasted entire days riding my bike to and from Riis Park. As a teenager, this parking lot was the local “parking lot” or “lover’s lane” for my peer group. We would also drink a lot of beer out here on winter nights, then do idiotic things with our cars.
At the edge of the universe, for surely there is nothing after the City of New York’s borders have been met, Kevin Walsh and I reached Riis Park in the Rockaways. We agreed that this was where I would hand off the microphone and he would take over.
Check out Kevin’s post tomorrow. I’ll be back on Thursday, and then he’s going to close the cover on Friday.
Newtown Creek Alliance Historian Mitch Waxman lives in Astoria and blogs at Newtown Pentacle.