6. The Rockaways was once home to the Playland amusement park and motel
The Rockaways once rivaled Coney Island as a summer destination. For over eighty years, the crown jewel of the Rockaways was Playland Amusement Park. Famous for its Atom Smasher Roller Coaster, featured in the film This is Cinerama, Playland lasted until the 1980s before it was demolished.
La Marcus Thompson, who also gave Coney Island its first roller coaster, planted the seeds for the park in 1901 when he created the “L. A. Thompson Amusement Park.” In 1928, it was renamed “Playland.” It once housed a 165-foot pool used for Olympic trials. There were clowns, fun house rides with then-cutting-edge electric trams, and more.
That Playland, at least according to pictures and postcards, was a glorious, bubbling center of entertainment and hedonistic fun. Today, it is a memory. The park began to fail in the 1950s, partly due to high bridge tolls and the razing of nearby bungalows.
The Playland brand was given one last breath of life in the form of the Playland Motel, which opened in 2013 to great fanfare. It branded itself as a “boutique hotel,” and lived up to the name. Each of its twelve rooms was designed by a different artist. It had a white wall for movie projections, a fake beach, and no shortage of glowing palm trees and Christmas lights. For a little while, its guests partied hard, with high-profile DJ’s and other characters soundtracking the cacophony of barefoot bathing-suit-clad guests. In November 2016, the party ended and the motel closed, partly due to animosity from locals not looking to give Williamsburg hipsters another excuse to come and gentrify their neighborhood.