To say goodbye to New York, author Chris Dong takes an in a single day trip to the seaside and finds there’s a lot to be taught in part of town he had lengthy solely thought of for day journeys.
Behind a layer of patchy fog, the solar casts a milky glow. It’s simply after daybreak on a brisk, late-spring morning on Rockaway Beach, a Queens neighborhood sitting on a slender stretch of New York City between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Two individuals out for a stroll greet me with a cheerful good day. Clearly, I’m not in Midtown Manhattan anymore, the place after seven years waking up in the identical constructing, my neighbors stay anonymous.
New York Metropolis could also be identified for the anonymity of a crowded road and the spectacle of a towering skyscraper, however this nook of town is an antithesis to these scenes.
Outlined throughout the bay, the Manhattan skyline stands simply 16 miles to the northwest but feels a world away. When the summer time warmth inevitably arrives, metropolis dwellers flock right here by subway and ferry, determined for a reprieve.
Dwelling to 130,000 everlasting residents, the Rockaways, encompassing the neighborhoods of Rockaway Seaside, Far Rockaway and 7 others, receives over 5 million beachgoers every year. It’s as if between Memorial Day and Labor Day, New Yorkers like myself lastly bear in mind they’re actually a part of a metropolis on the ocean, dwelling to over 14 miles of public seaside.
Beating the crowds
I’m right here early within the season, when issues are quieter. As an alternative of dashing to catch the final ferry of the night, I’m spending the evening within the neighborhood. A New Yorker for practically a decade, this in a single day expertise is one in every of my closing farewells earlier than shifting to Los Angeles and breaking a lifelong allegiance to the East Coast. As I make my approach down the boardwalk in direction of 116th Road, a freshly brewed espresso acts as my makeshift hand hotter. Whereas Greenhouse Café, on the bottom flooring of the Rockaway Lodge, is a relative newcomer to the scene, the homeowners will not be.
The Flatow household has deep roots within the Rockaways with their two outposts of Delicacies by Claudette, named after the matriarch of the household, Claudette Flatow. From filling my caffeine repair with a clean Peruvian drip within the morning to biting into the right eggplant sabich within the afternoon, I make the most of the Flatows’ abilities, one thing they’ve shared with the Rockaways neighborhood since 2012.
As I’d come to expertise throughout my “staycation” on the peninsula, the folks that reside on Rockaway Seaside are happy with the place they name dwelling. At Claudette’s and elsewhere, that is an everyone-knows-each-other seaside neighborhood the place locals greet one another by title.
Even the recently-opened Rockaway Hotel, a 53-room upscale property steps from each the ferry and the seaside, was the creation of third-generation Rockaway Seaside residents, Terence and Dan Tubridy. Every week, the lodge invitations a rotating array of native Rockaways eating places, corresponding to Whit’s Finish and Pizza D’Amore, for his or her “Dinner and a Band” collection.
Waking up in the identical metropolis, however in a brand new place
There’s one thing particular about waking up in a brand new neighborhood so in contrast to your individual, whereas nonetheless inside the metropolis limits. As an alternative of worrying concerning the logistics of journey, I felt extra tuned into my environment: the swish of waves hitting sand, the frenzied power of fishermen getting ready for a morning at sea, and the quiet conversations of aged residents on morning walks.
Earlier than this in a single day escape, I’d come to the realm earlier than, spending most of my time at Riis Park Beach, a queer enclave on the western Rockaway peninsula. From bumping beats to people-watching galore, the daytime vibe there seems like nightlife with sunscreen. It solely took a handful of visits to create a routine: discover a spot on the sand with pals, watch the day disappear, make a fast pit cease for afternoon fish tacos at Tacoway Seaside, catch the ferry again to town.
As I get up on Sunday morning and emerge into the quiet fog, I stroll previous the dunes, watching surfers take their positions alongside the coast, keen to search out that magic carpet trip to shore. A Delta jet, seconds after takeoff from JFK’s Runway 22, soars low over ninetieth Road.
To see this place earlier than the daytrippers arrive feels, even only for these few hours, as if I reside right here.
Experiencing a spot as an area
Within the Rockaways, the deep roots of neighborhood lengthen past pleasant hellos and early morning surf periods.
For dinner, my pals and I eat at Whit’s Finish, an Italian restaurant that in only a few years has change into one thing of a Rockaways establishment. It’s the kind of place that might additionally go for a jazz membership, speakeasy, sports activities bar and burlesque venue – multi function.
The handwritten menu options dishes just like the “fucking good burger” and “fast ass ceviche.” Everybody appears to know one another. An inebriated common dances beside the bar whereas the waitress grabs a chair, sits at our desk and reads out the specials.
A goodbye to a spot that I’ve referred to as dwelling
Earlier than returning to Manhattan, I am going for a closing journey down the boardwalk. This time, it’s by bike. Again in Midtown, I’ve to gingerly weave by traffic-filled streets, dodging drivers who assume they personal the highway.
However right here, on the boardwalk, I bike with a way of abandon. I don’t thoughts that my seaside cruiser’s seat is about practically a foot too low for me. As an alternative of pungent automotive exhaust, there’s an invigorating, stiff sea breeze. And as an alternative of a exact give attention to the trail forward, I repair my gaze above as one more airplane passes.
Simply once I really feel myself vanishing into the sort of half-dream state caused by seaside cities, I’m reminded that this place continues to be very a lot New York Metropolis. To my left, the A practice – the identical one which stops at Penn Station within the coronary heart of Midtown – rumbles previous on elevated tracks. Piercing by the fixed name and response of seagulls, I hear the acquainted screech of an MTA bus braking.
After an overcast weekend, the primary full rays of solar peek out from behind the clouds. Heat, gentle and infinite blue sky are a few of the the reason why I had determined to relocate to Los Angeles. I had come right here, partly, to say goodbye. And right here was New York reminding me of simply how magic it’s, when that sunshine cuts by days of grey skies.