Art, Food and Beer to Boost Beach 108th & 109th

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The Rockaway Beach Hotel is still a few years away, but those behind the project are already putting the space to good use, with an outdoor art gallery, food trucks and a beer garden.

Instead of construction fences, a sight too familiar since Hurricane Sandy, those from In Good Company Hospitality, the owners of the Bungalow Bar and other city hotspots, are giving locals and visitors something more appetizing to the eye, and bellies. As In Good Company, one of the partners behind the future Rockaway Beach Hotel, awaits construction permits, they’re making use of the space from Beach 108th to Beach 109th Street. Starting this Memorial Day weekend, the site will be transformed into an art gallery featuring a series of murals, called the BLVD Project. Then the Dalton’s parking lot and the site of the recently razed Tubridy Hotel, will be transformed into Rockapulco, a beer garden featuring food trucks, yard games, events, and of course, beer.

“With the ferry here and the timing with construction delays, it makes no sense for us to let the space to continue not being utilized. Construction likely won’t continue until the fall and the green construction fencing is ugly, so we thought, why not just do something, so that when people walk off the ferry, they have something cool to do and look at. For people coming off the ferry, there’s not too much on Beach 108th Street for them, and with this being the first summer for the ferry, as locals, that’s not how we want to present ourselves,” Terence Tubridy, one of the partners from In Good Company said. “It makes sense to do something for the summer.”

The colorful murals of the BLVD Project will first catch the eye of those coming off the ferry and walking towards the beach. The border fence of the construction site has been painted white, providing a blank canvas for artists of a range of abilities, to go to work.

A few weeks ago, Tubridy approached In Good Company employee Tracey Greene, who serves on the board and runs the exhibitions committee for the RAA, if she could help turn, what some call the “dirty Boulevard,” around. “This project ranges from some pretty well-known street artists from across the country, to up and coming artists, to community groups that are all working to beautify the community and really eliminate that nickname of the ‘dirty Boulevard,’” Greene said. “We want to beautify these blocks that will be under construction and make use of the thoroughfare from the ferry to the beach.”

The muralists will include up-and-coming artists from around the world, plus groups from local schools and art programs. Some include Cern Cernesto, John Westbay (Westgard), Magda Love, local artist Geoff Rawling, students from the Waterside school, and Greene and Judith Wanderer of the Rockaway Artists Alliance. Eight artists will get to work starting on Saturday, May 27. There will be a total of about 20 artists painting murals of 8 x 10 and larger along the perimeter of the border fence until mid-June.

“We’re looking for this to be an open air gallery, where people can walk around the entire square block and look at each artwork. It will really create that feeling that you’re looking at art and not just graffiti on a construction site,” Greene said. “People are walking past this site every day and we really want to take pride in our community. Why not make it enjoyable? Why do we have to walk by constant construction sites, especially since the hurricane? This says that there’s something coming here, and until then, there’s this really awesome thing that people can see now,” Greene said.

Greene says she was excited to help with the project as soon as she was asked. “I’ve lived in Rockaway and I want the best for this community. It’s really important to spread art throughout the community, not just at the galleries in Fort Tilden. We have some really great shows up there and it’s starting to pick up and we want to run with this momentum and spread it elsewhere. We don’t want hundreds of people getting off the ferry and looking at the dirty boulevard. We want them to look at it and say this is a really interesting, amazing community,” she said.

The BLVD Project will peak the curiosity of locals and visitors and draw them closer, where inside, they’ll find even more goodies. Rockapulco will be a beer garden featuring various food trucks, including Dalton’s Shore Shack. There will be picnic tables, ping-pong tables and yard games, plus the potential for events such as a country music festival. “It’s just going to be a nice place to chill,” Tubridy said. “It’ll be nice for the bungalow residents in the area and if people miss the ferry and have to wait an hour, they can walk back up and block and grab a drink and a bite to eat.”

The BLVD Project and Rockapulco will bring more attention to other businesses in the ferry area like Boardwalk Bagels, Healy’s Pub and Coastal Frozen Yogurt.

Rockapulco will be open on weekends from about noon until nighttime. It could be open as soon as Memorial Day weekend, but final touches, like covering the dirt of the lot, could set the opening back.

In the meantime, there are other new options for locals and visitors to get their beer garden fix. Liquid Bread, the beer garden neighboring the Community House on Beach 101st Street, is ready for its soft opening this weekend. It will be open from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. this Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Liquid Bread will have picnic tables, a bocce ball court, its own menu of pub grub and more.

“There will be millions of people visiting Rockaway and there’s plenty of business to go around. There should be even more places for people to go. Literally everyone empty lot in Rockaway should have something going on,” Tubridy said.

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