Rockaway Beach, Queens, New York City
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Rockaway Beach is a neighborhood on the Rockaway Peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens. It is located on the South Shore of Long Island. The community stretches between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay, running from approximately Beach 73th Street to Beach 98th Street. The neighborhood is bounded by Arverne to the east and Rockaway Park to the west. It is named for Rockaway Beach, which is the largest urban beach in the United States, stretching for miles along the Rockaway Peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is run and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Rockaway Beach was once known as the "Irish Riviera" because of the large Irish American population in the area. As of the United States Census, 2000, 25.4% of residents in ZIP Code 11693 identified themselves as being of Irish ancestry.
What is now Rockaway Beach used to be made up of two different towns, Holland and Hammels. In 1857, Michael P. Holland had purchased land and named the area after himself. Soon after, Louis Hammel, an immigrant from Germany bought a tract of land just east of Holland. In 1878 he decided to give portions of his land to the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Railroad in order to build a railroad station for the peninsula. The area around it became collectively known as "Hammels". In 1897 it merged with Holland and became known as the Village of Rockaway Beach. One year later, it was incorporated into the City of Greater New York and became part of the newly formed borough of Queens. However, the neighborhood, along with the eastern communities of Arverne and Far Rockaway tried to secede from the city several times. In 1915 and 1917, a bill approving the secession passed in the legislature but was vetoed by the mayor at the time, John Purroy Mitchel.
In the early 1900's, the newly formed railroad station opened up the community and the rest of the peninsula to a broad range of the population. The rich and wealthy no longer had a monopoly on the peninsula as various amusement parks, stores, and hotels attracted people from all over the city to spend the day or a whole summer there. Much of the area was developed by James S. Remsen and William Wainwright. In this era, it became known as "New York's Playground". Rockaway's famous amusement park, Rockaways' Playland, was built in 1901 and quickly became a major attraction for people around the region. The park was grandiose for its time. One of its most popular attractions, the Atom Smasher roller coaster, would be featured in the beginning of This is Cinerama, a pre-IMAX type movie, in 1952. An Olympic-size pool, and a million dollar midway also were built within the amusement park. It would serve the community for over eighty years.
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