On the morning of October 29, 2012, I get a phone call from Surfer Laura. She’s adamant, “Donna, Don’t leave!!” Like all my neighbors, she urges me to stick it out. The overly-hyped Hurricane Irene of the previous season had left Long Beach residents somewhat skeptical. Lots of drama and then…nothing. “Stay put, they won’t let you back in, they’ll close the parkways, there could be looting, you won’t be able to get home.” Laura’s warning is echoed across town. Civitas Ad Mare, situated between the mighty Atlantic and Reynold’s Channel, our precious City by the Sea is under siege. Who else but us, the water people of the Earth will stand strong to defend it? No sweat, I remind Laura, “I’m a Rockaway girl. We don’t back down.”
For people who grew up on the Rockaway Peninsula, the gradual loss of our homeland was as senseless as it was staggering. Once a shimmering seaside summer haven for New York’s working families, over time huge chunks of our coastal “Everyman’s paradise” fell to ruin. Across this geographically isolated barrier reef on the southeast Queens, miles of waterfront property were transformed into desolate urban wastelands – for nothing. Everyone has an opinion. Some blame the City of New York for piss-poor urban planning policies. Others claim an accelerated influx of impoverished minority populations transformed Rockaway into “Welfare-by-the-Sea.” Or was it white flight that pushed things to the tipping point? By all accounts, Rockaway’s history has been a perfect shit storm. But perfect storms also bring awesome waves. Somehow, through it all, across the Peninsula, four generations of surfing dynasties survived.
Rory Nugent, Down at the Docks Anchor Books Paperback, February 2010