Far Rockaway: Abandoned Bungalows


June 17, 2009 -

Far Rockaway, on the eastern edge of Queens, was once a flourishing summer community. Today, its landscape is like the half-abandoned city of Buffalo, with vast empty lots and a large number of abandoned homes. In 2008, according to the NY Times, the Far Rockaway's city council representative called his district "ground zero" of the subprime mortgage crisis.

Up until the 1970's, the streets of Far Rockaway were lined with hundreds of summer bungalows. Only a few of these cottages remain. Some are now year-round homes. Many have been abandoned, sealed off and covered in gang graffiti. According to neighbors, empty bungalows have been used to stage illegal dogfights. Others are used as makeshift kennels for fighting dogs. One group of 16 bungalows has been taken over by squatters from El Salvador, according to NY Post reporter Sarah Ryley: "The shacks are in bad shape, lacking water, heat and electricity. But the few that are habitable have been turned into adequate shelters, complete with front porches, buckets to collect rainwater, and small courtyard gardens seeded with jalapeno peppers and tomatoes." Three photographs from this photo essay were published with that article, titled Squatter Explosion.

Salvadoran Squatter's Home and Garden

80 years ago, Far Rockaway was "the summer getaway of A-List actors," according to the NY Times, which also reports that "in 1929, Groucho Marx owned 24 [bungalows] as an investment." However, "air-conditioning and air travel spelled the end of Far Rockaway’s heyday, and half a century later it hit rock bottom, with high crime, [and] wrongheaded urban-renewal schemes." The Rockaways' "tortured development history," according to City Limits, created a neighborhood where "in place of the empty lots and dilapidated homes, speculative developers built condos and apartments.... almost all of the new homes never sold. Today they are not occupied by homeowners, but by subsidized tenants with limited disposable income..." The NY Post reported in May 2009 that "of the 126 two- and three-family homes built in the neighborhood between 2004 and 2006, at least 76 percent have been foreclosed on or are currently in some stage of foreclosure."

For Sale: Fire Damaged Apartment Complex

The future is uncertain for the remaining bungalows of Far Rockaway. Some are slated for demolition by developers. Others are collapsing under the weight of abandonment. A few that are in good shape are part of The Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association
. The following photos document the last of Far Rockaway's abandoned bungalows.

---
For more photo essays from The Rockaways, please visit Hammels Wye (2010), The North Edgemere Shore (2010) The South Edgemere Wasteland (2010) and The Edgemere Landfill (2010).



Bungalow Complex Courtyard


Courtyard, Arch and Bungalows


Bungalow Kennel: A Fighting Dog Named Menace


Abandoned Bungalow


Bungalows and Development


Cage and Bungalow Ruins


Squatter's Home


Squatter's Porch


Hammock and Fireplace


Drying Clothes


Overgrown Bungalow Ruins


Empty Bungalow: Wall Paper


Living Room Ruins


Bathroom Window


Kitchen


Bungalow and Garden

57 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. I lived in Far Rock away from the age of 6 to 20, and my parents rented a bungalow before they bough a house, it was always a rough area I lived a few blocks from Beach 45th Street but I liked it; however it is sad now there are hardy any buildings left.

      Delete
  2. Just worked on a commercial still shoot in Far Rockaway along the beach - while location scouting in preproduction was looking for the bungalows - I had been out there maybe 10 - 12 years ago and there were many then - if a bit gone to seed... still, they had a certain charm. This time out there were lots of condos / townhouses- built and under construction - you found more bungalows than I saw - good job :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. oh thats funny, the real deal recently did a story of my photos, basically the exact same thing...

    http://therealdeal.com/newyork/articles/development-destroying-far-rockaway-bungalows

    i'm sure you've seen it already though!

    ReplyDelete
  4. What more than one person can't find interest and take photos in the same place? Lynn, you're not the first person to take photos there and will not be the last.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks everyone for the comments!

    Richard - There just aren't that many bungalows left! It'd be hard to stage a summertime scene down there with the remaining bungalows...

    To Lynn - Thanks for posting a link to your photos. It's good to see that The Rockways are getting some attention, whether through my photos being published in the NY Post or your photos being on the Real Deal.

    There is a substantial difference between what you photographed and what I photographed... and the next photographer who goes to the Rockaways will no doubt have their own the unique experience. While your photos are focused on bungalow exteriors and streets, the majority of my photographs are focused on the squatter community that was first reported in the NY Post, and on the interiors of abandoned bungalows... which is not really "the exact same thing" at all.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This is sad. When I was a growing up in the early 70's my family owned one of these bungalows.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Nathan, these photos are beautiful, and you did an excellent write-up as well. I love all of them, and was pleasantly surprised by the one of the barking dog. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  8. They should burn them all to the fucking ground and re-wild Far Rockaway. The beaches out there ain't bad.

    ReplyDelete
  9. What a shame. What happened in East Rockaway is a prime example of misplaced priorities and poor judgement calls among an urban planning elite with limited forsite. Of course, good old Robert Moses played a role in the demise of the bungalows, too. The decision to put in large scale, high rise housing in East Rockaway ultimately killed the community. There are locations sprinkled around the city where bungalows still exist and have not fallen into neglect like this. But the Rockaways probably had the largest concentration of them. It's unfortunate. Someone with the right skill and promotion skills could have possibly seen the charm in these bungalows decades ago, renovated them and marketed them as an alternative for city residents to expensive summer weekend places in the Hamptons and the Jersey shore. Just try to imagine upper West Siders getting on the A train on summer weekends to head to their rentals at the shore. Hey, one can dream. Go ahead and laugh. No one ever imagined the High Line would one day be a beautiful park.

    ReplyDelete
  10. what a great series, and what a sad reality. Another failure of imagination along our city beachfront...

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a fuckin waist when families are homeless. And even those not down and out, it seems folks, somebodies would have loved to lives here and make these buildings homes. How does this happen...property just being abandoned, especially near the beach? I thought that meant prime real estate? Thanks for the photos

    ReplyDelete
  12. great photos ... so is anyone doing anything about the illegal dogfighting? has bloomberg/aspca seen these photos?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great Work,
    I lived there(Rockaway-Far Rockaway) as a boy and had many friends who "summered" in those homes.They were everywhere until the city razed them for urban renewal. Nothing changes

    ReplyDelete
  14. there is a MAJOR gang problem in these areas, and the blight associated with the area has to do with the lack of work of any kind down there and a monumental commute to anywhere.

    Don't underestimate the beaches down there thouhgh, they are beautiful, spacious and great for surfing.

    ReplyDelete
  15. A few years back we considered buying one of the cottages at Rockaway. I contacted several real estate brokers and looked at a couple that were for sale, but the prices seemed really really high, higher than you'd think, and over the one year period that we considered doing this, the asking prices doubled. Our lower bids were snickered at by the brokers - they never even let us get to an actual offer stage.

    It would seem, looking at these photos, that nobody bought them who cared about them. They were nice little houses, mostly needing electrical and plumbing work, sitting right at a beautiful beach.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nathan,

    You post the death, here is the life. My wife was from the community, she attended FRHS, hanged on the beach and grw up in those bungalows.

    Imagine this is pics the people to whom lived there, such social destruction took place.

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc27b3127ccec299459df13100000010O00AauG7hk1Yt2IPbz4C/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/



    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b7cc27b3127ccec29887ad501c00000010O00AauG7hk1Yt2IPbz4C/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D720/ry%3D480/

    This is what is left, your photo's

    What was ours and other bungalows was approx 100 ft from the corner on 35th. The only thing that is left is lonely broken sidewalks that slowly nature is taking back.

    It was done by 1985, the neighborhood was too dangerous in which on the hot August morning was being razed to the ground. It was time to leave.

    If anybody here in Brooklyn/Queens on August 19, you have an open invite to our annual homage to lay a rose to what was our bungalow and lunch thereafter on the beach.

    Why who knows may still find a trinket or two there. The last time found a piece of a cup that was in our kitchen cabinet as the bulldozer flattened our birthright home.

    You may ask why is not there anything built on the prized land (beachfront) in NYC. A rabbi a couple of years ago was enjoying the day there on the beach and he felt so much sadness and misery. This must be hallowed ground and ordered his family to leave immediately. There is many that state it is haunted, on a lonely night you still can hear the families.

    We have found haven in a bungalow on Point Pleasant beach, refugees always dreaming of returning one day.

    Our home now.

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b8cc10b3127ccec5aafd8210fa00000040O00AauG7hk1Yt2IPbz4C/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

    My wife, and sandbar on 89th in FR

    http://im1.shutterfly.com/media/47b9dc37b3127ccec6347c0b39e800000040O00AauG7hk1Yt2IPbz4C/cC/f%3D0/ps%3D50/r%3D0/rx%3D550/ry%3D400/

    If you ever want to hear the story email: reidqa@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  17. This is a great series of photos, but I must ask - have you been to Buffalo? Or have you just heard that the population is declining and there are lots of abandoned/foreclosed houses? Buffalo has a lot of problems, but I would not compare the ruins of Far Rockaway that you photograph here to the entire city of Buffalo, of nearly 300,000 people, and plenty of lovely neighborhoods!

    ReplyDelete
  18. These interior photos are bleak and quiet, yet so rich - and totally mesmerizing. What an unexpected pleasure to see your work. I'm only sorry about what is true of the subject matter.

    ReplyDelete
  19. While these photos do tell of a sad history. There are communities of bungalows in Rockaway now that are vibrant and alive. I won't say where, because that would ruin it for us.
    Let those who go to the hamptons keep on driving. They don't know what they are missing. These beaches are the nicest on the Eastern shoreline. While the lifestyle may not be for everyone, but is getting back to it's roots. Bungalow communities for families to get out of the city heat, and enjoy with family and friends.
    homelessness, gang activity and even dog fighting happen all throughout New York. people from outside only see the "dangers" lurking. Which is the very thing that keeps things quiet and enjoyable there. Once that ends it will be gentrified and be just an other beach town......

    ReplyDelete
  20. Jeannie,

    The destruction occurred at the edgemere section, at 35 st and spread outward. I am certain you know nothing exists there not a bungalow not even the strip malls.

    Your bungs are safe and no doubt loved.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Brutally great shots, Nathan.

    In the early 1950's, I summered with Grandma at Beach 69th St., while Grandpa commuted out from the Bronx on weekends. Beach baby grew up loving the Boardwalk, over and under.

    You're breaking my heart. R.I.P.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Thanks so much for these photos and the stories, Nathan.

    ReplyDelete
  23. My grandmother purchased a large bungelow on Beach 46th Street around 1920 - it was in the family for many years and was our summer home up until the early 70's. I cannot begin to tell you how sublime a lifestyle Rockaway Beach really was. Beaches were clean and gorgeous during the day, neighborhoods showed enormous pride of ownership with colorful summer gardens, and the boardwalk was THE PLACE to go and be seen at night (great place to meet guys ala One Summer Night & There's a Moon Out Tonight). Then...came the squatters. First, year-round neighbors would call us frantically to tell us our home had been broken into (despite boarding it up for the winter). My dad would rush over there to find plumbing ripped out, moulding pulled off the walls, bannisters taken down, appliances ripped out. Later, there would be human feces on the floor and they'd used the kitchen floor as a base for their bonfires. It just about destroyed us! Eventually, they wound up burning the house to the ground. Fifty plus years of precious memories. What I will never understand...if they wanted a place to live WHY did they have to destroy it (and, by the way, every single house on the block, too?!) Probably among the saddest things that ever happened to me on a personal level. Thanks for sharing the pictures, though. As I explained to my daughter...as much as it hurts to see them, it they are still a small vestige of my past that valadates my memories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. WOW, another Beach 46th Street person. My grandparents bought their bungalow somewhere around the 1920's. I can't find the address right now, but it was on the "beach" side of Edgemere and B46th Way (Way and Street). We, too, had winter squatters, one of whom caused a fire (late 1950's). As I remember, the fire department saved the building, but we cleaned up the mess and my grandfather hired some handyman to install crank open and closed windows. Their house was more modest than some; no open porch. The shower was outside along the walkway between the houses; the bathroom was installed by my grandfather; built in the kitchen. It had a tiny corner sink and a toilet!

      Mayor Lindsay's well meaning policies to build retirement housing in our area was the cause behind the City destroying blocks and blocks of houses in the middle of the night with no warning. They paid us $4,000 each for the houses that were razed. Needless to say, the housing was never built. I think I wrote in the pages of a Bungalows of Far Rockaway Blog that I ran into the Woman in Charge of Destroying the Bungalows at a WAC (Women's Army Corps) National Convention a few years ago. She made comments about the "little shit houses" (bungalows) she authorized to be destroyed. I freaked and told her that we owned "one of those shit houses". To make matters worse, this woman had grown up with one of my Aunts in Brooklyn!! Small world.

      Delete
    2. WOW!! this is so fascinating!!! I would LOVE to hear more. I currently live in Rockaway. Please if email me when you have the time.

      ms.zukowski@gmail.com

      Delete
  24. Wow, so great to have stumbled onto your blog today! I just went to Far Rockaway for the first time, via bike and took pics, a couple "abandoned" shots near in Fort Tilden.

    Where are the bungalows you shot? I was mostly around the Seaside area/boardwalk and then west all the way down to Breezy Point. I'm guessing these must be east of the Veterans Memorial Bridge?

    ReplyDelete
  25. Congrats. When I tried doing photos near Hammel's Wye, the locals threatened to loose the dogs on me if I took any photos.

    Did you find the old courthouse out on the NW shore?

    ReplyDelete
  26. You were in wrong locale, the destruction took place along the ocean edgemere etc.

    ReplyDelete
  27. i just happened upon this photo blog and have to tell you that while there are lots of abandoned areas there are also many vibrant areas in the rockaways today. I still live there and yes, we have the best beaches in NYC. Keep the secret!

    ReplyDelete
  28. I grew up in Far Rockaway. You cant go home again? I close my eyes and I am there in my heart, mind, and soul.
    I played in those bugalows, and painted sea shells with water colors,took showers outside. Had my first kiss under the boardwalk, and the sea air filled our lungs. Thanks for the photos.

    ReplyDelete
  29. I love the pictures of the abandoned bungalows in Far Rock. I'm just wandering where exactly are these abandoned properties like street names/addresses. I would like to go check them out for a project I'm working on.

    ReplyDelete
  30. My Aunts had a bungalow that I went to a few summers of my childhood. It was a magical place. I could run wild by myself, exploring all kinds of things, from creatures of the beach to the characters that lived there. Two things I remember so well, the smell of the tide in and out, and the wallpaper (roses) in the living room. I so long to see and visit that place again.
    Mary Donaldson

    ReplyDelete
  31. At this point, they should just buy out the whole neighborhood, turn it to a state park, raze the structures too rough to save, and make the cottages that can be fixed into places that can be camped in like the cabins in upstate parks. Put in parking and make the beach another beach to visit like Jones or Robert Moses farther east. Naturalize whatever is left over.

    ReplyDelete
  32. The entire Rockaway peninsula should secede from NYC and rejoin Nassau County. Far Rockaway is in shambles,with underperforming schools and aging hospitals compounding the crumbling landscape. Rockaway Park is also on the decline. Meanwhile Bloomberg continues to ignore the plight of the Rockaways,the community I was born and raised in. I bet Nassau County would better utilize this special place,this small strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay. Rockaway was once part of Long Island and look what has happened since it joined NYC. The schools and hospitals would benefit immediately with the housing market not far behind. If only King Bloomberg would set us free instead of constantly raising the inter-borough toll and ignoring the many transit issues of this town Rockaway could finally begin to recover

    ReplyDelete
  33. Great work done... You have shown reality in these pics.

    Far East Australia

    ReplyDelete
  34. These pics really make unhappy. really saddening.

    But you have done a great job.


    rental and real estate

    ReplyDelete
  35. I spent summers here as a child. I lived in Far Rockaway and raised my children in Bayswater. I worked at the Hebrew Kindergarten and Children's home as the social worker under Minnie Goldstein and later taught at PS 114 when Joseph Amdur was principal. My kids were all born in St. Joseph's Hospital. I watched the Beach Channel H.S. being built. I watched FRHS deteriorate. Two of my kids went to HILI which then occupied the 4 houses of the former Roche estate on Seagirt Blvd, next to the old Takapousha Hotel.

    Your pictures are beautiful . They make my heart cry for what was lost to stupidity and greed.

    I will always have sand in my shoes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cynthia@bethisrael.orgJune 7, 2012 at 3:52 PM

      Would love a conversation with you regarding the HKIH and Minnie Goldstein. Please contact me!

      Delete
    2. far rock high was once an amazing place. jonas salk, and
      richard feynman---nobel laureates--- graduated from frs.

      sic transit glora mundi.

      Delete
  36. These photos broke my heart. I grew up in Wavecrest and cannot believe what was once so wonderful has completely gone to shit. It's not like Urban Renewal hasn't been tried over the years. Needs someone to come in with the ASPCA and operation TAKE-BACK.

    ReplyDelete
  37. I really appreciate work. You have done a great job. But as far as pics are concerned, they make me unhappy.

    ReplyDelete
  38. I found the pictures while looking for information on Hurricane Irene.
    The pictures are wonderful! They have a lovely mood.

    It is amazing that these cottages have been abandoned. I would not expect such cottages near an ocean to have been abandoned.
    In other places, areas such as this, would have been snapped up by people wanting to live close to an ocean and still in the city.

    Here in the Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, area homes such as those in the pictures would have been snapped up by people wanting to live close to the ocean. Any single family homes in Vancouver, B.C. this close to the ocean would cost $700,000 and up.

    The area looks like a great place to purchase a single family home and renovate!

    Again the pictures are lovely and remind me of an age gone by. How wonderful you thought to preserve these homes.

    ReplyDelete
  39. @a.e.f.
    I live in Vancouver too, but grew up in Long Island, Queens and Manhattan in the 1960-80s. The animals that the city moved into the housing projects were all about one thing ! Destruction of anything that taxpayers built or gave to them for free ! Or super low rents. At first some of the housing went to seniors. But as they died, the social services moved in the welfare cases. They got free medical, schooling, food stamps and housing. but they just wanted to trash all they could ! They destroyed good working class neighborhoods with violent crime.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I spent the summers from ages 9-13 in the 50's with my grandparents who lived on Beach 44th street. As a child who was growing up in West Virginia, Far Rockaway was an unbelievable place! Some of my most treasured memories are playing skiball on the Boardwalk, being introduced to Italian Ices, New York style corn and rye breads, the Good Humor truck every night, digging for clams on the beach and then getting to carry them home and steam them...all new experiences for a WV gal! Both sets of my grandparents had winterized bungalows and lived just down the the block from each other. Your pictures, though beautiful in their way, make me cry for what has happened to that magical place of my youth.
    Jill Rees

    ReplyDelete
  41. These pictures were so mournful and made me reminisce about my summers on Far Rockaway. My parents and I rented a room in a boarding house on Beach 36th, about 2 blocks away from the ocean for several summers. This was late '60's. I lived on the beach, ate all my meals there, even bbq chicken(with sand), collected shells, played ski-ball on the boardwalk, ate knishes and soft ice cream cones, and spent my nights sitting outside on the porches of my friend's bungalows. Thus began my love of the ocean. How sad that if I go back, I'd find all these lovely memories in ruins. Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone with some common business sense would rescue these bungalows and turn them into affordable housing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was born in St. Joseph's hospital and graduated FRHS in the late 70's. The decline started in the early 70's and by 1980 was a VERY different place from when I was a child. We left in 1981. What great childhood memories. I can honestly say that as a young child in the 60's I couldn't imagine a better place to grow up. The city should be ashamed of itself. I miss that place dearly. If I had the resources, I'd help clean it up myself, take out the trash, rebuild the boardwalk, model it after its original form put a Playland back along with the seaside arcades and hotels and prosecute the animal abusers. Makes me sick.

      Delete
    2. Affordable housing???

      That was the problem in the first place!!
      NYC in it's infinite wisdome decided to put the project in. That was the beginning of the end.

      Should have been developed as a resort (ocean city, Cape may, etc.)

      Delete
  42. I Love Far Rockaway I grow up there ,I went to IS 105 Queens , then went to I.S.53 I just loved Far rockaway ......

    ReplyDelete
  43. I was born at St. Joseph's in Far Rockaway, I only lived there until I was 2 but my Dad grew up there (graduated FRHS) and my grandparents were Kosher butchers in the Wavecrest area on Seagirt I believe. They lived on Beach 32nd about a half block from the boardwalk in an old scary Gothic building about 3 or 4 stories tall. On their side of the street between their building and the boardwalk were bungalows, the other side were old homes. My grandmother used to take us to the boardwalk where we ate knishes and italian ices and she fretted so while we rode the bumper cars and played skee ball. They eventually moved to a 2 family home on Beach 19th or 20th Street (I can't remember)on the other side of the main drag. I remember sleeping over at their house and hearing sirens all night which scared the bejeesus out of this suburban Long Island kid in the 60s. We moved to Florida when I was a kid but my grandparents stayed there until they died. They loved it and wouldn't leave. My parents have been back to see what's become of it but they come away shocked at the deterioration. I know that there are parts that are coming back due to the continued efforts of the Orthodox that are overflowing from the 5 Towns.

    ReplyDelete
  44. It all makes me so sad....the memories of my child hood all but gone. At least my bungalow (I believe it was 197 Beach 24th street)is still standing. My family has a long history there. They practically owned all of Beach 24th. My father graduated FRHS in 1940, and lived in the house at 197. The first house on the right was a distant relative of some sort, second was ours, third (which is now a vacant lot) belonged to my fathers sister, fourth was my uncle lou, fifth was my uncle eli, then followed by several other distant relatives down the block.
    I miss the simple life of trecking down to the beach....

    Shame on New York City!! they threw away a gold mine!

    ReplyDelete
  45. I was born at St. Albans Naval Hospital in 1952 and lived in the back of a Sunoco gas station across the street from the abandoned courthouse on Beach Channel Drive until I was five. Sixty years later, Rockaway is still the same $hithole it has always been. Considering your gun laws, I could not even imagine visiting that place again. (I'd shoot, on sight, anyone I caught fighting dogs). Where else but NY could prime ocean front property be worthless, and remain so for decades.

    ReplyDelete
  46. ROCK ROCK ROCKAWAY BEACH Many rocks smoke on at Rockaway Beach.

    ReplyDelete
  47. Does anyone have any directories for Far Rockaway from the 1895 - 1905 period? I have an ancestor that died in Far Rockaway in 1901 and am trying to find a residence or any other details on the event. Message me at charding@ljvfd.com if you have anything, please.

    ReplyDelete