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Rockaways boast urban perks in beach community

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The Rockaway peninsula in Queens encompasses 11 coastal miles within the boundaries of the Atlantic Ocean, Nassau County and Jamaica Bay. Although primarily a residential beach community, pockets of commercial activity are present throughout the peninsula. Far Rockaway and Arverne are in the east end of the commercial hub, Hammel and Rockaway Park are in the center, and Rockaway Park is at the west end, all offering an exciting and vibrant shopping experience.

In 1609, Rockaway was discovered by Henry Hudson. Originally called “Reckowacky,” which means “lonely place,” the area was named by the Canarsie Indians. Over the years many transactions occurred between the Dutch and the English via the Canarsie and Mohawk American Indians. The last and major transaction occurred between two Englishmen, Capt. Palmer and Richard Cornell (founder of Cornell University).

By the mid-1800s, access to the Rockaways started to occur with the penetration of the Long Island Rail Road. Today, the population of the Rockaways is approximately 110,000. The overwhelming majority of inhabitants live on the peninsula year round.

Rockaway is a self-contained beach community. It accommodates millions of mainlanders each summer who enjoy swimming off its beaches. Planning is in progress to develop the unused parcels of land into residential and commercial properties as well as open public space, which will add to the beauty of the Rockaways’ natural aesthetic appeal.

The Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corp. is welcoming major residential and commercial developments coming to the peninsula. Projects such as Arverne-by-the-Sea will create 4,500 residential units comprising one- and two-family homes as well as condominiums. Federal Jeans Co. has plans to build a distribution warehouse in the Rockaways, which will create approximately 150 jobs.

RDRC is the local non-profit community development organization serving the Rockaway peninsula. Since its inception, RDRC’s mission has been to serve as a catalyst for the community’s revitalization by initiating community development activities that remove barriers to economic growth, stimulate the local economy and create jobs.

The Rockaways’ vibrant commercial corridors continue to flourish. Private and public development projects have invested in the vicinity of shopping districts. These include the Ocean Grande, a luxury condominium project offering magnificent ocean- and city-view units; Sweeties Ice Cream Panic, offering Hershey’s Premium Ice Cream; and Unique Bridal Creations, offering a wide selection of P.C. Mary’s bridal gowns and Jauani mother-of-the-bride evening gowns.

An array of new residential construction is apparent. Consequently, new businesses have shown interest in the Rockaways to service the needs of the growing population.

The Rockaways are home to several major manufacturing businesses, such as Madeleine Chocolates and Red Castle Bakery, which both are major employers of Rockaway residents. The RDRC is the sole administrator of Empire Zone benefits in the Rockaways. The expansion of the Empire Zones, a New York state business development project offering strategic tax and incentives programs to new and existing certified zone businesses, will attract additional companies in the coming years.

Because of the Rockaway’s geographical location, most residents have limited access to amenities normally found in mainland Queens, such as a movie theater or major shopping mall. RDRC, along with city officials, will be involved in the planning of bringing entertainment infrastructure to the Rockaways.

Nevertheless, the area offers a pleasant shopping and recreational experience. Annual street fairs are common along the commercial corridors, as are music festivals on the beaches. One can enjoy strolling the commercial corridors in comfortable attire while enjoying the amenities of an urban city in a beach community.

Tony Berkel is the director of business and professional services for the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corp. This series is provided by the Queens Economic Development Corp.

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