The Artist’s Oceanside Riviera
Words by Sasha Okshteyn. Photography by Nathanael Turner
The Q22 bus takes you down to what is known as the Far Rockaway Beach Historic District. This quaint area along the Atlantic Ocean and its beautiful beach and boardwalk is where Richard George, a painter and former antique restorer, has spent the last thirty-three years trying to preserve what’s left of the historic ocean resort homes.
“When I first came to Far Rockaway in 1986 it was to look for a summer place to paint and go to the beach to relax,” recalls George. “Then I came across these distinctive stucco bungalows: they had many large windows allowing for the free flow of light and air into the space perfect for an artist like me.” Once this type of home was abundant on the peninsula, numbering at around 7000 by 1933. They were used as summer getaways for many working-class Jewish, Irish, and Italian families. But today, the largest remaining patch is around 120 houses between Beach 26th and Beach 24th streets. With constant new waterfront developments popping up in Far Rockaway, these historic buildings that show us a glimpse of early 20th century vernacular architecture and urban beach living have become in danger of being completely demolished. In reaction, Richard George and fellow bungalow owners came together to form the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association to fight the city against big developments.
Authenticity and preservation is, more often than not, lead by inventive individuals. “The oceanfront environment with its reflective light and filtered sunlight through the misty ocean air is reminiscent of the Dutch light perfect for artists and creative people,” says George, describing how his neighbors are for the most part interesting makers, writers, artists, musicians, and actors from different cultural backgrounds. “The built structures with the matrix walkways encourage an open interactive bungalow community.”
All these residents are not here just to enjoy the beach but to protect the character and the stories that make this little neighborhood so special. In 2012, the 120 bungalows were recognized as a historic district at the New York State and Federal National Registers’ of Historic Places. To this day, they still fight to landmark the district.
To support and/or have more information on Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association you can contact BBPAorg@aol.com