Far-out fun in the Rockaways

Ololade Harper, 55, plays the djimbi drum on

Ololade Harper, 55, plays the djimbi drum on the Rockaways boardwalk (Photo: RJ Mickelson/amNY) (Credit: Ololade Harper, 55, plays the djimbi drum on the Rockaways boardwalk (Photo: RJ Mickelson/amNY))

 

Far Rockaway might be the most famous neighborhood that most New Yorkers haven’t been to. Those willing to brave the A train all the way out to its last stop (or the 55-minute trip on the LIRR) will find great beaches for fishing and boating, not to mention sand-castle sculpting and a little late-season sunbathing.

Far Rockaway occupies the easternmost part of the Rockaway Peninsula (called “the first Hampton” by one lifeguard). Rockaway Beach runs along the southern edge of the peninsula. The beach is “relaxing but not too crowded,” said one fisherman visiting from the Bronx, who was hoping to reel in a fluke or porgy. To the north is Bayswater Point State Park, which overlooks Jamaica Bay.

The heyday for Far Rockaway was in the late 1800s and the first half of the 20th century, when it served as a seaside escape for Manhattanites. Mansions can be found on the northern part of Mott Street toward Bayswater, as well as in other parts of the neighborhood. But the area started going downhill in the 1950s and 1960s when Idlewild (later Kennedy) Airport brought noisy air traffic to the area and crime increased.

These days the Rockaway Peninsula is experiencing a bit of a renaissance, though growth has been slowed by the recession. The subway stations in Far Rockaway are all being renovated and locals say city services have improved. New developments are coming to the area, but because of the mortgage crisis many houses on the market are in foreclosure. The commercial offerings are limited — most folks leave the area to shop or eat out.

But affordable real estate and waterfront property make Far Rockaway seem poised for a new wave of development.

TO PLAY:

Sissy’s Restaurant and Bar
10-75 Beach 21st St.,
718-327-1864
For 21 years, Sissy’s has been one of just a few watering holes in the area. It offers cocktails at an almost makeshift bar, and serves curried goat and oxtail at the tables behind it.

TO SHOP:

Lucky Farms
18-59 Mott Ave.,
718-327-6387
For fresh fruit, lucky bamboo and spices from around the world, Lucky Farms is the place to go in this neighborhood. It also carries dry goods and frozen foods.

Africa Caribbean Central Market
19-13 Mott Ave.,
718-327-4367
Traditional foods from Ghana and Nigeria, such as plantain flour and spicy ginger-lime drinks, are sold here. The market also offers a large selection of imported movies and traditional, bright fabrics.

Rockaway Pets
19-15 Mott Ave., 
718-868-4949
The kittens in the window may draw you into this local pet store, which offers tabbies, exotic birds and many types of fish and lizards, as well as all the supplies necessary to give them happy homes.

Far Rockaway Fish Market
21-34 Mott Ave.,
718-471-0033
Fresh fish is delivered daily to the market, which sells an array of porgy, whiting and salmon. It also offers live crab and a selection of frozen seafood. If you need bait, it’ll happily sell you some fish tails.

TO EAT:

Mi Mundo Restaurant
19-21 Mott Ave.,
718-868-0609
For roasted chicken or beef stew cooked Dominican-style, head to Mi Mundo. It offers lunch for a mere $2.99, and a full bar.

Gino’s Pizza
10-38 Beach 20th St.,
718-471-6825
The lone pizza joint in a sea of Spanish-American eateries, Gino’s serves up both slices and pies.

Spooonfull
18-54 Cornaga Ave.,
718-337-5500
This family-owned restaurant specializes in soul food, offering fish sandwiches, fried chicken and mac and cheese.

Kris Roti Palace
18-55 Mott Ave.,
718-327-7609
This Guyanese and Trinidadian eatery specializes in curried conch and dhal with pumpkin and flatbread. Homemade drinks include peanut punch and ginger beer.

TO SEE:

O’Donohue Park
Beach 17th Street and the boardwalk,
718-318-4000
At the start of the Rockaway Beach boardwalk there are often summer movies and other events. There’s also a large, free parking lot for visitors.

Bayswater Point State Park
14-79 Point Breeze Pl.
To the north of the peninsula, this small park was built on land ­formerly owned by a wealthy banker named Louis A. Heinsheimer. It’s a good spot for bird watching and looking at the waters of Jamaica Bay.

First Presbyterian Church of Far Rockaway
896 Central Ave.
This church is one of two nationally landmarked buildings in Far Rockaway (the other is the post office on Mott Avenue). The building features stained-glass windows by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Tags: City Living , Rockaways

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