Rockaway Park – Beach 116th Street, Queens

Two seniors fish on Rockaway Beach
Two seniors fish on Rockaway Beach, not far from the Beach-116th Street station.

Once on the Far Rockaway-bound A-train, you travel down Central Park West and 8th Avenue, eventually diving under the East River into Downtown Brooklyn. Racing along Fulton Street, the A-train reaches the Brooklyn-Queens border emerging from the subway tunnel onto elevated train tracks as the train makes a sharp turn to the south. Passing over Jamaica Bay, you arrive at Broad Channel Station transferring to the Rockaway Park Shuttle, eventually arriving at Beach 116th Street roughly two hours after departing Inwood. Walking south to the end of Beach 116th Street, you will find Flight 587 Memorial Park. 

Shortly after the September 11 attacks, on November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587 lifted off from JFK Airport en route to the Dominican Republic. Soon after takeoff, the Airbus A300 aircraft plummeted downwards and eventually crashed into the ground at the intersection of Newport Avenue and Beach 131st Street killing all aboard as well as five below. 

Memorial to 2001 crash American Airlines flight 587
The memorial to the 2001 crash of American Airlines flight 587.

Passing the memorial to Flight 587, Rockaway Beach emerges in front of you. The ever-present scent of saltwater fills your nostrils as children play in the water and seniors stand with their fishing poles.

In a vacant space surrounded by barbed wire are the ruins of the Neponsit Hospital, a former tuberculosis ward that operated from 1915 into the 1950s. The hospital shut down permanently in 1955. In the years since its closure, the long-abandoned structure was left to rot, yet it has become adorned with colorful LGBTQ-themed graffiti and murals. 

Neponsit Hospital
The exterior of the Neponsit Beachside Hospital in June of 2021.

Half a mile down the boardwalk is an abandoned former bathhouse, once a hub for beachside entertainment but now stands as a lonely yet impressive brick structure. Constructed in 1932, the building was designed in the Art Deco style. Much like its namesake Jacob Riis, a Danish-American journalist who wrote How the Other Half Lives, the bathhouse was an egalitarian establishment, allowing for a wide variety of patrons to enter and enjoy its impressive amenities. 

Jacob Riis bath house
The exterior of the Jacob Riis Bathhouse

Despite its vacancy, the Art Deco grounds of the bathhouse provide a home to the Riis Beach Bazaar, a marketplace filled with various local pop-up vendors, artists, and occasional concerts. Another gathering place much closer to the central part of the Rockaway peninsula is the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, a bar, restaurant, and gathering place for many in the community. Uma’s Restaurant, not far from the Rockaway Beach Surf Club, is the only establishment serving Uzbek and other Central Asian cuisines on the peninsula.