Breezy Point and Ft. Tilden Revisited; part 1

Breezy Point:
The last time I photographed these areas was in the Fall when, except for a few fishermen and local wanderers, it was deserted (click).  On Memorial Day weekend it was a different story.

the beach club is open for the season
Unlike the eastern end of the Rockaway peninsula which had been a beach resort since the early 19th century, Breezy Point (which includes Rockaway Point & Roxbury) didn't become a summer retreat until the early 20th century.

"Had you planned a visit to Breezy Point before the Civil War you would have been in for a surprise. It did not exist! All the land west of the vicinity of Jacob Riis Park has formed within a little more than a century. This is largely because of the construction of a groin field to protect the beaches at Fort Tilden, and the placement of the Breezy Point jetty to prevent the filling of Rockaway Inlet. The sand has been contributed naturally by the westward longshore drift along the south shore of Long Island, particularly the Rockaway barrier island and sources offshore.
The Rockaway Shore areas have been heavily utilized since colonial time. Fort Tilden began as an outer harbor defense post during the War of 1812. The site was expanded into a large defense network with ever expanding fire power beginning at the turn of the century following the Spanish American War." USGS

At the turn-of-the-century entrepreneur Andrew VanDeventer formed the West Rockaway Land Company and the development of Breezy Point began with a tent city, bungalows and a few hotels. Since lumber was scarce it was brought over by barges from Brooklyn, some of it from the grand hotels that were being torn down in Coney Island.
 By the 1920's there were thousands of tenants in the bungalow colony, they united to form the Rockaway Point & Roxbury Association to wrest control of the community from the Rockaway Land Co.  After years of legal battles they bought 500 acres and created the Breezy Point Cooperative in 1961. Residents purchased shares in the cooperative and divided up lots to build their own homes.


Access is restricted to owners, renters and guests, the entrance to the cooperative is guarded by a security checkpoint and its privately owned streets are blocked to unauthorized traffic by electronically locked gates controlled by magnetic key cards.
The community is also known as the "whitest neighborhood in New York City" where 99% of the residents are white and 60+% are Irish American -- the 2nd highest concentration in the U.S. -- no wonder it's been called the Irish Riviera for almost a century.

no trespassing

On the beach blocks the streets narrow into sidewalks and paths, so the preferred mode of transportation is bicycle.

In 1972 the National Park Service bought the 200 acres surrounding the Co-op, and after the jetty was built, the newly formed Breezy Point Tip. The area is a bird sanctuary and the dunes are roped off to protect the nests of skimmers, terns, oystercatchers and the endangered piping plover.

The locals refer to the western end as Birdland and the birds do rule the beach here.

black skimmers take over their spot

common terns have theirs

American Oystercatcher pairs shun the crowds and stay close to their nests       

Before the Park Service bought the land between Ft.Tilden and Breezy Point the area had become a dumping ground. Construction was halted on a hi-rise building complex, the official reason was to create the nature preserve, although the rumors were because it was too close the Nike Missile system (part of which can be seen behind the unfinished buildings).

Continuing out to the jetty and around the tip to Rockaway Inlet and the bay side.

Coney Island across the inlet and the Verrazano Bridge in the distance

ahhh peaceful

 I stumbled upon this......

 ....and few feet away another one.  I found out these are a type of shark known as Smooth Dogfish.  Since they were still "fresh" I suspect they were thrown back into the water by people fishing from boats in the area even though they are edible.

Around the bend to Rockaway Point and the Lighthouse, which isn't a lighthouse at all, but a spotting station for Ft.Tilden which I will cover in part 2

Archival photo from Library of Congress
All other photos copyright nycedges 2011


  1. What a great post. The closest I get to this place anymore is the flight path to Kennedy Airport...
    I'm doing a NYC bike post today and I also posted something inspired by your last comment on my blog...One of my greatest hits by Sen. Lieberman...

  2. i love the pictures of the birds. what kind are they?

  3. M- that is one creepy poster...but not as horrific as hearing that voice!

    N- I've added captions to clarify, BTW they migrate to Florida too

  4. thanks edgy! i don't think i've ever seen them before.

  5. Amazing that such solitude exists to close to NYC.

  6. Jeanne, I guess not having any public transportation or access by car does have it's benefits!

  7. The National Park Service aquired Gatweway in 1972 and was given the statutory right to purchase the 200 acres surrounding Breezy Point; however, Congress never allocated the money and elected to pass on acquiring the property within the statutory period they were allowed to do so under their eminent domain seizure. Years later the government figured they would just try and take the land anyway but the government actions were rejected in court. Here is the NY Times article highlighting the case from way back in 1982...

  8. The builder of the high rises went bankrupt and those building sat abandoned until they were demolished. The fact that they were near a Nike missile base or a nature preserve had nothing to do with it. Google the Atlantic Improvement Company.