A Rockaway Times Year in Review



Hindsight is 2020. So let’s take a look back at the year that was—2019. Here are some highlights from each issue of The Rockaway Times (RT) last year.


January 4:

Seals aplenty were seen in Jamaica Bay. The New Year’s Day plunge was a little easier with 60-degree weather.


January 10:

Walker Hornung, Indaculture and Wine With Sue were gearing up for the South Queens Ball.


January 17:

The government may have been shut down, but Elegante was busy serving up free food for federal employees. Sorrentino’s Meats was getting ready to make its Rockaway debut.


January 24:

Local businesses were feeling the brunt of city and state mandates on small businesses. Broad Channel remembered the life of the late John Schmitt. Glenn DiResto wrote an editorial about the repercussions of the proposed Peninsula Hospital development.


January 31:

Carlotta Peters started the Pay it Forward movement to help neighbors in need.


February 7:

The Rockaway Times launched its fourth annual photo contest. State lawmakers passed legislation to curb Menhaden fishing, a big food source for whales. Capital One announced it would be closing both Rockaway branches in May. Riis Park’s MeatUp Grill was making headlines for its cheese wheel pasta. Uncle Louie G transformed into Mara’s Ice Cream Parlor. Councilman Eric Ulrich was running for Public Advocate


February 14:

Saint Camillus Catholic Academy announced it would be closing at the end of the school year. A homeless shelter for 110 single-men was proposed for 226 Beach 101st Street. The neighborhood rallied around Bridget O’Connor as she faced a life-threatening ordeal. The St. John’s Home for Boys was causing concern after a series of break-ins involving its residents.


February 21:

The homeless shelter issue had residents heated and protests began. Khaleel Anderson, 23, announced his run for State Assembly in the 31st District.


February 28:

Rockaway was getting ready for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The local American Legion continued the tradition of hosting funerals for indigent veterans. The homeless shelter was a big issue at the monthly Community Board 14 meeting.


March 7:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced an emergency plan to replenish the eroded beaches from Beach 92nd to Beach 103rd. Many got a sneak peak of the new Harbor Light on parade day. Locals let their anger be heard at a 100th Precinct meeting over the break-ins involving St. John’s Boys. Demolition began on the Far Rockaway Shopping Center to make room for affordable housing and new retail space.


March 14:

CB14 held a special meeting on the proposed homeless shelter and requested an audit of the Department of Homeless Services. Dayton Beach Park shareholders filed a lawsuit against The NYCHPD for its lack of oversight in regulating the DBP’s board of directors. Residents expressed deep concern over speeding issues around Beach 61st Street.


March 21:

The Community House property was in contract to be sold. Councilman Ulrich led a protest in front of DHS Commissioner Steven Banks’ home in Brooklyn. Eric Peterson was selected to replace Portia Dyrenforth as Parks’ Rockaway Administrator.


March 28:

Rockaway brought the shelter protest to City Hall. New taco joint and juice bar, Te Quiero, opened. Construction seemed to be in full swing at the Beach 91st Courthouse.


April 4:

Concern grew when tar was discovered along the beach, particularly In Riis Park. USACE began dredging of the sand in the East Rockaway Inlet, that would fill Rockaway Beach. Stained-glass master, Patrick Clark, was working on a big project to restore a more than 100-year-old Rose Window. The Rockaway Youth Chess Club made its debut. Hurricane Sandy fire victims were cleared to proceed in the lawsuit against LIPA and National Grid.


April 11:

RT Editor Katie McFadden earned a first place award for feature writing from the New York Press Association. CB14 voted for the DOT to install traffic calming measures around Beach 61st Street to reduce speeding. Longtime Ciro’s Pizzaman said, "Arrivederci!" to Rockaway as he retired home to Italy.


April 18:

USACE began its sand replenishment project for Rockaway Beach.

A company called Shelter Inc raised alarms with a permit to build on Beach 115th but the owners claimed they were building market rate condos. The RT’s Kami-Leigh Agard was recognized as a Woman of Distinction by Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato for her work with the Rockaway Beach Autism Families group. Pheffer Amato announced that the Cross Bay Bridge rebate program would be extended to all Queens residents starting in spring 2020. Tom Morgan was elected the new president of the Graybeards.


April 25:

St. John’s Hospital was impacted by a data breach. The Rock Away Pens debuted their first play festival.


May 2:

The Rockaway Times named its top 30 photos from the photo contest. Locals got ready for another Taste of Rockaway. JCCRP proved it does what it can to ensure Holocaust survivors are not forgotten. Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals closed off the annual Bugalou concert series.


May 9:

The community celebrated the centennial of the first transatlantic flight, which took off from Rockaway, with a ceremony and exhibit. Arker Companies presented their latest plan for the Peninsula Hospital site. The Williams NESE Pipeline project got a necessary approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Traffic lights and crosswalks finally arrived at the busy intersection of Beach 92nd and Beach Channel Drive.


May 16:

Mayor de Blasio was in town to celebrate USACE finishing its sand replenishment project ahead of the beach opening. Local officials were fighting for local businesses like Last Stop to remain in the MTA’s property on Beach 116th. Locals ran in memory of Breezy Point resident and Xavier coach, John Kelly. CB14 voted against a developer’s plan to build a 17-story mixed-use development on Beach 9th Street.


May 23:

Neighbors were raising funds for the upkeep of Memorial Circle. Youngster Connor Rodriguez, who has Down syndrome, was making an impact with Connor’s Cupcakes. Neighbors were on high alert over rumored plans to turn a property on Beach 120th Street into a SRO.


May 28:

The beaches were open for the season. Joe Hurley was getting ready to host his All-star Rock Revue at the Irish Festival.


June 6:

The Riis Park clock was returned after undergoing renovations. Kimo’s Kitchen and breakfast spot, Bernadette’s, opened in Rockaway Beach.


June 13:

Rockaway was gearing up for the Rockapulco Gold Music festival and Rockstock and Barrels. Queens District Attorney candidates came to Rockaway to debate.


June 20:

The Rockaway Times celebrated its 5th anniversary. The Parks Department accidentally snipped a surfer’s bike lock, sparking a rumor that bikes were no longer allowed to be chained to the boardwalk. AmpSurf was gearing up for a major fundraiser.


June 27:

The last class of St. Camillus graduated as the school officially closed. The Queens DA Democratic primary was held, but the results were still unclear.  Bands were getting ready to play the Two Bridges festival at AB Studios. CB 14 held a special meeting about the proposal for the Peninsula Hospital Redevelopment (Edgemere Commons). CB14 disapproved the plan and made several recommendations. A cellphone tower popped up at the site of the Neponsit Home, which concerned some neighbors. Teacher, Sonya Lamonakis, was helping her school, PS/MS 183Q, get a new playground.


July 4:

Street construction along major thoroughfares were causing traffic backups and headaches. Ulrich unveiled a newly refurbished hockey rink in Broad Channel. Locals were angered to learn that the Pickle People would not be allowed to sell their pickles at the boardwalk craft fairs.

Yacht Rock charters launched, providing sailing trips around Jamaica Bay and beyond.


July 11:

Robbie Salmon and Rich Pontieri were training to duke it out at Thrilla in Camilla. Solshyne member and former Rockaway Times reporter Pat Morgan died. The Rock!Away! festival was coming to town. A couple drowned on Beach 9th Street in Far Rockaway. Avoid the Day book store was looking to go brick and mortar.


July 18:

Hope for the Warriors came to town to enjoy a weekend of fun in Rockaway and Breezy Point. The kite festival was back and being held in memory of the late Billy Taylor, who helped start the event. The first LGBTQ Pride Block Party was held. A new bakery, Georgina’s, opened on Beach 116th Street.


July 25:

Marty the Robot landed in the Arverne Stop & Shop, reporting spills in aisles. The Department of Transportation was seeking feedback on a new dollar van service along Shore Front Parkway. The general consensus was it would be a bad idea. The DOT announced that Lime’s dockless bike share pilot would come to an end at the end of the summer. A new food cart, TheCradleNYC, opened on the boardwalk, serving up Nigerian cuisine. The Pickle People announced a pop-up at Connolly’s was in the works.


August 1:

John Munoz, a teen from Brooklyn, became the fourth victim to drown in Rockaway’s waters in 2019. A Lime bike that was tampered with burst into flames. Annie McMahon, a Breezy Point summer resident, died after a long battle with Cystic Fibrosis at age 22. After a recount, Melinda Katz was declared the winner of the Queens DA Democratic primary.


August 8:

The Rockaway Times Sandcastle Contest was another big hit. Maintain Odozi, 15, drowned in Jamaica Bay. Burglars burrowed into RBNY Physical Therapy’s Beach 86th location and stole property. Opera on the Beach debuted at Rustwoods.


August 15:

The Rockaway Beach Volleyball season came to an end. American Princess Cruises launched sunset whale watching tours. National Grid’s moratorium on new gas hookups was holding up the opening of new restaurant, Batesy’s, and other residences and businesses. Eighty-eight-year-old Dora Helwig was preparing to leave her bayside paradise home.


August 22:

Wine With Sue celebrated their 25th anniversary. Vincentia “Toots” Becker celebrated her 99th birthday. Sunset Cove, a new ecological and educational park overseeing Jamaica Bay, opened in Broad Channel. The Rockaway Times took a ride with the FDNY’s Marine 3 summer detail.


August 29:

Emily McNeil’s photo was chosen as the grand prize winner of the RT Photo Contest. The newly-rebuilt Sandpiper Playground on Shore Front Parkway finally opened. New boutique shop, Lu Bella, opened on Beach 129th Street. The first Miss Colombia Walk was held in Riis Park.


September 5:

Labor Day weekend was bookended by anti-Semitic graffiti at the Silver Gull Beach Club and in the sand. Despite undergoing renovations, Tribute Park was going to be used to host the annual 9/11 Ceremony.


September 12:

Rockaway remembered 9/11, 18 years later. The late Clare Droesch’s memory lived on at the 3 on 3 by the Sea. Batesy’s BBQ opened in Arverne by the Sea. Surf was up for the 15th Annual Richie Allen Memorial Surf Classic.


September 19:

A team of locals went to Manhattan to plead their case against the proposed Beach 101st homeless shelter at a Contract Hearing. An elevator inspection was holding up the opening of the Harbor Light. The Dropout opened for the season with a pig roast. Engine 268/ Ladder 137 firefighter Mario Polit starred in big screen hit, “Hustlers.”


September 26:

The Poseidon Parade, sponsored by The Rockaway Times, was a success. The Vans Duct Tape Festival and Surf Invitational was coming to town. A bottlenose dolphin washed up dead on Beach 102nd Street. Far Rock Strong was inspiring youth through basketball and mentorship.


October 3

Two more teens, Gabriel Rice and Adedayo Adewale, drowned off of Beach 96th Street, making the sixth and seventh drownings of the season. Chef Rhinehard Stih was impressing with his creations at Rockaway Farmers Market.  Religious leaders and the NYPD met to discuss ways to address local anti-Semitism.


October 10

The Harbor Light was set to open after seven long years of rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that their protection plan would include 19 new jetties up to Beach 149th. Thank You Café opened on Beach 116th Street. The MTA finally released the Rockaway Branch Feasibility Study.


October 17:

A cyclist was killed by a vehicle on Cross Bay Boulevard. Community House was closing for good.


October 24:

Rockaway marked the seventh anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.


October 31:

Happy Halloween! The Rockaway Times shared a story of the Beach 116th Street firehouse ghost. The Harbor Light finally opened, putting an end to a long chapter for the Heeran family. Joe Murray was hoping to take down Melinda Katz in the Queens DA race.


November 7:

VFW Post 260 was getting ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary. Melinda Katz officially won the Queens DA race. The Parks Department put out a Request for Proposals for the beach concessions.


November 14:

Demolition began on the Park Theater on Beach 116th Street. Rockaway marked the 18th anniversary of the crash of Flight 587. The Beach Channel Dolphins Football team made it to the playoffs.

November 21:

Stockings for a Cause kicked off. Vino By The Sea was hosting a “Worst Thing About Living in Rockaway” party at Whit's End to celebrate their first anniversary.


November 28:

Students participated in a safety rally, expressing their concerns over the proposed Beach 101st homeless shelter. The Silver Gull Beach Club joined the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the National Park Service to announce an initiative to fight back against hate after the Labor Day graffiti incident.


December 5:

Broad Channel resident, Morgan Allen, was getting ready to ship off boxes of elves to deployed service members to spread Christmas cheer.


December 12:

The Little North Pole lit up for the season, debuting a new surprise of dancing lights. Jayne Holsinger brought her exhibit, “National Parks” to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Siobhan O’Sullivan, a young girl battling cancer, led the SFDS tree lighting.


December 19:

Rogers was getting ready for its 100th Anniversary celebration. A downed wire left Beach 116th in the dark for several hours. A group of locals led a bartending fundraising effort for Siobhan O’Sullivan. Longtime Scholars’ Academy Principal Brian O’Connell announced he was moving on to Lawrence Woodmere Academy. Local, Theresa Racine, who was adopted, found her birthmother after 54 years.


December 26:

Father Jomar Legaspi was preparing for his final Mass at SFDS after joining the parish a year ago. The community gathered for the annual Beach 116th Menorah lighting—a last for West End Temple Rabbi Marjorie Slome, who will be retiring. The Far Rock National Pan-Hellenic Council led a successful toy drive.