We know 2020 is not a year many want to relive, but tradition calls for a recap, and after all, it wasn’t all bad! Here are some highlights from each Rockaway Times (RT) issue this year:
Bail reform went into effect in New York City. The Department of Homeless Services approved the shelter for 226 Beach 101st Street. We remembered Michael McDonnell, a Hurricane Sandy hero, who died the week before on December 23, 2019. The Beach 116th Street Theater was demolished.
The MTA released a plan to redesign the Queens bus system, which would include eliminating the Q53. After Governor Cuomo vetoed the Jamaica Bay Protection bill, local leaders vowed to reintroduce the bill. After significant damage, glass master Patrick Clark was questioning what would happen with his creation, the central mosaic of Tribute Park. An earthquake struck the Rockaway of the south, Rincon, PR and John Sica was there to give a live report.
Publisher Kevin Boyle set out on his electric bike adventure from Mount Pleasant, SC to Tampa, FL. NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza hosted his first Community Education Council District 27 town hall meeting in Rockaway. Scholars’ Academy dedicated a portion of its library to revered teacher, the late AnnMarie Todes. Rockaway Babes, a drag queen duo featuring Ginger Ladd and Dreama Belle kicked off a residency at Whit’s End. The Rockaway Theatre Company (RTC) was given Bethpage Federal Credit Union’s award for the Best Theater Arts Venue in Queens. St. Francis de Sales’ priests, Father Bill and Father Jim, bartended a successful Holy Happy Hour fundraiser. The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) announced financing for 793 new affordable homes in Downtown Far Rockaway.
Rockaway Solutions Not Shelters (RSNS) had a win in the shelter battle, when a NYS Supreme Court justice decided to issue a temporary restraining order against the shelter. The Graybeards geared up to honor Bill Dunn and Gail Allen at their annual dinner dance. Bye Bye Birdie, Jr. came to the RTC stage. On a snowy Saturday, The Dropout had raised $9K for Australia in wake of the wildfires.
BrazMex Café opened on Beach 116th Street. Avoid the Day Bookstore and Café was getting ready to open its doors that weekend.
The Fifth Annual Rockaway Times (RT) photo contest began. Rockaway celebrated Black History Month. Demolition of the Irish Circle building began. Beloved local, Bridget O’Connor marked a year from the day a life-threatening ordeal led to her coming an amputee. Poseidon Prom was coming up that weekend.
CROM was gearing up to hold a salsa night fundraiser for those impacted by earthquakes in Puerto Rico. The MTA came to town to take questions about the Queens Bus redesign, but many felt questions weren’t answered. The RTC Young People’s Workshop brought James and the Giant Peach to the stage.
Connor Rodriguez, a local 9-year-old with Down Syndrome became a published author. Local businesses were putting plans in place for the upcoming plastic bag ban in March. Green Dunes II, an affordable housing development, opened in Edgemere. After six-month’s out due to surgery, beloved hairdresser Richie O’Connor returned to Mr. Rocco’s.
Rockablue, a new clothing store owned by Israel Waks of Clothesliner, opened. The residents of the Beach 101st homeless shelter moved in despite there not being a contract.
Queens Borough President candidates took to Arverne for a heated debate. Super Burrito was gearing up to open its first brick-and-mortar store. Local leaders took to West End Temple for an anti-hate crime forum.
Rockaway’s St. Patrick’s parade was ready to kick off that weekend. High winds knocked over a utility pole, which caused a traffic delay on Beach Channel Drive for eight hours. The RTC was getting ready to perform Jesus Christ Super Star. Army Colonel Thomas Asbery signed off on the Rockaway jetty project making it ready to be put up for bid. Rockaway WISH sparked the blue ribbon challenge in support of the NYPD.
Rockaway’s St. Patrick’s Day parade marched on a few days before the city parade was canceled due to coronavirus. The first coronavirus patient in Queens and eighth in the city was admitted to St. John’s Episcopal Hospital on March 7.
The clock started to flatten the curve against coronavirus and lockdowns began. SFDS began virtual learning as schools closed. John Brennan, a Rockaway native, became one of the first coronavirus victims on the east coast. John Knox was believed to be the first local resident to die of coronavirus. Local restaurants were adapting to takeout and delivery only. Local leaders called out DHS for its illegal handling of opening the Beach 101st shelter.
Virtual learning began for NYC Public Schools. Terence Tubridy of In Good Company hospitality launched Family Meal to help feed hospitality workers unemployed due to the pandemic. Callie’s on Beach 129th opened for business. The Coronavirus Quarantine Virtual Bar launched on Facebook. DSNY employees raised alarm about conditions as coronavirus cases grew around local garages. Dez-Ann Romain, a beloved local teacher and principal, died of coronavirus.
The USNS Comfort arrived, passing Rockaway on its way to Manhattan to relieve hospitals.
Vino by the Sea launched a domino fundraising effort to help local businesses and feed healthcare workers. A humpback whale washed up dead in Riis Park. Neighbors started the Hopeful Hearts project to spread positivity. Houses of worship were navigating providing virtual spirituality. Polly & Esther led an effort to donate hundreds of face masks.
Heroes were saluting heroes as the FDNY paid St. John’s a visit to cheer on the frontline healthcare workers. St. John’s had successfully treated and released 120 Covid patients.
Veterinarians were coping with Covid changes and dishing up advice after Bronx Zoo tigers were diagnosed with Covid-19. Easter was saved as Madelaine Chocolate, despite closing its factory, donated holiday chocolate to healthcare and essential workers. Schools began trying out other virtual platforms besides Zoom due to hackers. Parishioners held a Palm Sunday drive by for the St. Francis priests. As cases peaked, the RT decided to suspend delivery service.
RBQ was busy providing free meals to first responders through the pandemic. The Front Steps Project, a photo portrait project to raise money for frontline workers, kicked off. Brian Gillen spent the Lenten season diving into the chilly ocean for 40 days. Birthday drive-by parades became popular.
H & L Contracting, the same company that did Long Beach’s jetties, was awarded the contract for the Rockaway jetty project. Temple Beth-El, West End Temple and Jewish War Veterans held a virtual Holocaust remembrance ceremony. A local couple, Suzanne Valentine and Michael McGee got hitched in a Zoom wedding. Summer Breezy resident Tommy Yorke, 13, officially crushed cancer.
The RT launched Rockaway Times TV. The Beach 101st shelter was raising alarm as NYPD responded to calls and unmasked residents lingered around the property. Author Thomas O’Callaghan was releasing his latest thriller, “No One Will Hear Your Screams.”
Beloved local photographer Laura Deckelman died unexpectedly. Small businesses were awaiting PPP Loans. Liz Hanna was the cheerleader small businesses needed as she launched the Rockaway Businesses Need You page and began raising money for frontline workers through lawn signs. Far Rockaway Greek Council was bringing relief to neighbors and frontline workers. BRS Moving stepped up to provide hard labor to area hospitals in need.
Due to not being able to open and pressure from the landlord, CROM made the difficult decision of closing their gym on Beach 92nd Street. The Top 30 Finalists for the RT Photo Contest were selected. Oceanfront property at 120 Beach 26th Street went up for sale for $70 million.
Breezy resident Frances Abbracciamento celebrated her 107th birthday after beating Covid.
The city declared the ocean closed for swimming as lifeguards would not be on duty. The Rockaway Hotel was putting on the finishing touches as it readied to open in the summer.
Broad Channel held a drive-by birthday parade for Rocco Pisani, who is battling leukemia.
Jameson’s welcomed Jiannetto’s Pizza Truck to give free pizzas to frontline workers and first responders. Fidel Ramirez, 24, drowned just before Memorial Day weekend. All of the residents were moved out of the Beach 101st shelter and relocated to hotels due to coronavirus concerns.
At the urging of local leaders, The MTA agreed to allow its tenants to stay at its Beach 116th Street property until the end of the year. Small Memorial Day ceremonies took place at Veterans Circle. The RT rode along with Rolling Thunder Chapter 6 New York’s Ride for Freedom.
The Rockway Community Justice Center opened in Far Rockaway. Wine With Sue held a virtual concert fundraiser for nursing home staff. The community gathered for a large peaceful protest through Far Rockaway in response to the killing of George Floyd.
After a video surfaced on social media of unleashed dogs chasing seals off the beach, the NY Marine Rescue Center provided advice on interacting with seals. Black Surfing Rockaway led a large memorial paddle out in honor of George Floyd as The Heart of Rockaway held a vigil on the boardwalk and the Far Rock Greek Council led a march against police brutality. The Rockaway Mutual Aid Network was bringing resources and supplies to those in need. The RT Photo Contest Finalists were put on display to the boardwalk.
New York entered Phase 2 of reopening, allowing restaurants to open outdoor dining.
The Rockaway Mermaid Brigade, with Whalemina in tow, held a graduation parade. Local organizations showed support for the NYPD by bringing food to local precincts. Rockaway prepared to vote in the democratic primary.
De Blasio announced that lifeguards would return and swimming would be permitted starting July 1. The boardwalk concessions began to open with limited to-go service. Ed Shevlin was busy paying it forward to Team Rubicon as a volunteer, after they helped Rockaway after Sandy. NYPD Inspector Justin Lenz, a former commanding officer of the 101st Precinct, died unexpectedly. Democratic primary election results started to roll in. A 100th Precinct officer was suspended after using an alleged chokehold while arresting a 35-year-old black man in a boardwalk altercation. SFDS eighth graders celebrated graduation with a bike parade and a dip in the ocean. Rockaway celebrated pride month.
Local kids made the 100th Precinct’s morning with donations of breakfast goodies. The RT released the “Unusual Summer Guide.” The 100th Precinct’s Captain Hall detailed an uptick in crime. Riis Park’s lifeguards returned and concessions started to open with limits. Surfer George Hance caught his heroic rescue of a drowning teen on camera. An injured thresher shark washed up alive on Beach 102nd Street. Graduation parades commenced. After raising funds from sales of NYPD lawn signs, Liz Hanna and others donated food and gifts to the 100th Precinct.
Robbie Ostrander’s drone shot showed Rockaway looking more like the Caribbean with clean, clear blue waters. Ernie Kiburis, a local sanitation worker, was remembered by coworkers after being killed in a car accident. Nancy Baker Cahill’s "Liberty Bell," an augmented reality art project, launched in Rockaway. Locals organized a fundraiser to fly a Support the NYPD plane message over the beach, which was met with mixed reactions.
The Rockaway Mutual Aid group brought a free food fridge to Almeda Ave. Rockaway showed support for the NYPD with a large march on the boardwalk. The march was met by groups of counter protestors. In response to the march, some Beach 97th concessionaires made quickly-deleted Instagram posts calling marchers racist. Khaleel Anderson, 24, was the clear leader in his democratic primary for Assembly District 31 and Jeanette Garramone was declared Democratic District Leader. GrindTime Skate Shop opened up in Rockaway Beach.
Summer Classic returned with some safety precautions in play. Elizabeth Crowley conceded, and Donovan Richards was officially declared winner of the democratic primary for Queens Borough President. In response to an uptick in shootings, Rock Safe Streets held a march for peace. Musician Matt Kiss dropped his album, “Reacquainted.” Keith “Bugsy” Goldberg offered free history lessons for kids in the SFDS schoolyard. As part of the Wild Year Program, the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy (JBRPC) gave St. John’s Home boys the chance to experience kayaking as a reward for helping rebuild the Community Boathouse ramp. Far Rock Greek Council held a large cleanup effort in Far Rockaway.
As delivery orders became popular, locals found themselves trying out a new job as delivery drivers. Raquel Confections brought gluten-free goodies to Rockaway with a new bakery. The RT joined Pete Heinz for a Rockaway Sailing adventure. The RT Photo Contest was narrowed down to a top 10.
Tropical storm Isaias rolled through, bringing strong winds that knocked down tress, knocked out power and even entangled a kiddie pool in power lines. Illegal parking during the summer became a hot-button issue at the latest 100th Precinct meeting. Alen Guzman sought help to find the person who injured him and killed his dog in a hit-and-run on Shore Front Parkway.
Theresa Racine’s surfer at sunset photo earned her the grand prize in the RT photo contest. A towering 35-foot sculpture, “Mother Earth” landed on Beach 98th Street sparking discussions. The Far Rockaway Colts were creating positive changes within troubled youth in Rockaway through its mentorship and football program. FDNY quickly extinguished a smoky fire on a boat near the ferry dock.
Calvin Stanley was gearing up for a book signing for his first book, “Auspicious: The Journey Behind Pursuing Your Dreams.” Plans were released for the Arverne East Project. Broad Channel celebrated the completion of a successful street raising project. Vincentia “Toots” Becker celebrated her 100th birthday on the beach while Gloria McDonald celebrated her 90th.
The Rockaway Times won 4 awards in the New York Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. NPS revealed that Riis Park Beach Bazaar’s lease would be up in November and a Request for Proposals would be released. The new Rockaway Beach Skate Park finally opened.
Black Surfing Rockaway led a 13-block paddle out for Breonna Taylor while a small group held a paddle out to show support for essential workers. The Far Rockaway Colts held a community event in the Hammels to help bridge the gap between police and the community.
Lifeguards were set to end the short beach season on Labor Day. The 101st Precinct held a ceremony to remember coronavirus victims by lighting lanterns on the beach. Some pressure was relieved for gyms as they were allowed to open again, but indoor classes were not. Debra McCarthy told the story of how 9/11 sparked her search for her birth family.
A drive by parade was held as a thanks to Bugsy for a successful Summer Classic season. Girl Scouts Troop 4426 led a campaign to remind people to sign up for the 2020 Census. The Army Corps announced that the rocks to start the jetty project would start landing the following week. Kite fighting was becoming a menace for Broad Channel as sharp strings littered parks, yards and the bay. A 20-year-old man was left dead in a triple shooting in Far Rockaway.
Rockaway remembered 9/11 with ceremonies at Tribute Park, an NYPD ceremony on the beach, the Richie Allen Memorial Surf Classic and Gail Allen received a special surprise with 343 American flags left on her lawn. A Far Rockaway teen, Justin Galvin, was hailed a hero for rescuing a woman and her children from a burning car in CT. A young woman from Brooklyn, Chinnel Brown, drowned on September 11. St. John’s emergency room got a much-needed expansion. Burglars targeted Dunkin Donuts on Beach 129th Street.
The first jetty rocks arrived in anticipation of being used for the jetty project. The long-awaited Rockaway Hotel opened in August and the Rockaway Times gives it rave reviews. Photographer Laura Deckelman was remembered with a paddle out. Captain Louron Hall moved on and Captain Carlos Fabara became the new commanding officer of the 100th Precinct. Drink Rockaway, a locally-inspired sparkling water made its debut.
Indoor dining was permitted in NYC at 25% as restaurant owners took the fight to City Hall, with a casket in tow, to demand a higher capacity. Richie Connor, a beloved member of the St. Camillus Special Olympics, died unexpectedly at age 51. Local elected officials encouraged people to get tested as coronavirus cases started to rise. Poseidon’s Parade lived on with a much smaller spontaneous march. Bar Marseille, an eatery inspired by the south of France, opened in Arverne.
A big uptick in cases forced a large part of Far Rockaway to go back into lockdown. Churches around the peninsula participated in the annual Blessing of the Animals.
Shantell Martin’s mural came to the Big Yard at the Waterside School. Thank You NYPD, an organization started on Facebook, paid Transit District 23 a visit to show support. The Rockaway Film Festival took a remote route.
Kimo’s Kitchen faced a damaging fire but vowed to make a comeback. A body was found in the water on Beach 88th Street. John Smiley was seeking help to have some long-abandoned barges removed from his property along Vernon Basin. Liz Hanna and 2Twins Printing presented a check to the Stephen Siller Tower to Tunnels Foundation after a successful 9/11 lawn sign fundraising effort.
Rockaway showed up in droves to rock the vote as early voting opened up at the YMCA. With funding from Councilman Eric Ulrich’s office, derelict boats were removed from around Jamaica Bay. Beloved watering hole, Connolly’s was put on the market for $6 million. Rockaway marked the 8th anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. Local organizations teamed up to beautify the bayside on Beach 69th Street.
As America awaited clear results on the presidential election, early results showed clear leaders in local races including Donovan Richards for Queens Borough President and Khaleel Anderson for Assembly. Rockaway got creative with Halloween by making candy slides. Shmuel Levine was indicted in the alleged brutal murder of Danielle Marrano. A wire caused a car to burst into flames on Beach 74th Street. The NYC Marathon was canceled but Brendan Lally completed a virtual run to raise money for Rockaway WISH and the Graybeards. A pro-Trump car parade ruffled feathers with support and opposition.
In honor of Veteran’s Day, the RT interviewed Eileen Barry, the creator of New York City’s only women veteran statue. The American Legion Daniel M. O’Connell Post #272 held a small ceremony at the Doughboy statue to mark Veteran’s Day. Santa’s helpers worked behind the scenes to bring the Little North Pole to life. A sick Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge swan was rescued by subway. Carlos Roman, 19, died in a stabbing by a 17-year-old boy in Rockaway Park.
New York City public schools returned to fully remote learning as Covid cases increased, while private schools remained open. Mayor de Blasio came to town for the 19th anniversary of the crash of Flight 587. The Far Rockaway Watchdogs met with NYPD Assistant Chief Ruben Beltran, commanding officer of NYPD Patrol Borough Queens South, to make connections.
There were bunker abound, making for some good fishing and a whaley nice feast off the shore.
CB14 voted on the Arverne East Project and asked for certain conditions to be met for approval.
The Far Rockaway Colts, in partnership with Stop and Shop and the NY Giants, led a citywide effort to provide turkeys to those in need before Thanksgiving. The Rocco Strong hockey tournament raised more than $6,000 for Rocco Pisani.
St. John’s Hospital took over the Rockaway Medical Arts Complex on Beach 105th, offering an array of services. Governor Cuomo vetoed the Jamaica Bay Protection bill again. The old Wave Building saw new life with a revitalization by new owners Javed Rambaran and Ed Patisso. Sea Changes launched winter swimming as part of a global movement. The Far Rockaway Greek Council led a successful Thanksgiving feast.
The Little North Pole was lit for the season in a tiny, Covid-safe ceremony and the Broad Channel and Beach 116th trees were lit. Wick and Pour, the first candle-making lab in NYC, held a pre-launch event. Walker Hornung was busy making music throughout the pandemic, releasing his album, “A Sacred Thing” and gearing up for a follow-up, “Beekeeper.”
The vaccine arrived. St John’s healthcare workers were first in line for the anticipated shot against the coronavirus. The Festival of Lights lit up the town as Rockaway celebrated Hanukkah. Ulrich’s office became the first city council office to offer self-swab coronavirus testing. Rockaway WISH got creative this Christmas with a drive-by Santa parade. The Little North Pole proved corona can’t stop Santa as they held a drive-by toy giveaway. A&S at the Harbor was profiled as the Belle Harbor Yacht Club’s new caterer. Emmanuel Velazquez of Far Rockaway was featured for this Super Saiyan battle against leukemia.
JBRPC launched its art gallery, “Reflections.” Rockaway got a glimpse of the “Christmas Star,” or the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. The Santa Sleigh Run brought Christmas Cheer to Rockaway. The Santa Shuffle went off along Shore Front Parkway, running in memory of Cristin Mullen. The Rockaway Theatre Company showed the show must go on as they prep for a comeback next year. The St. Camillus Special Olympics athletes had a special drive-by visit with Santa at the Little North Pole. Hilary Sheinbaum debuted her book on the dry January challenge.
And now on to 2021!
Happy New Year!
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