Rockaway Locals…You Tell Us! Get Your Voice Heard!

In this special feature, Rockaway Times reporter Kami-Leigh Agard hits the streets to get your opinion on current issues facing the peninsula.

Your Voice…Your Community…Your Platform

March is Irish Heritage Month, and every week this month, The Rockaway Times saluted local Irish Americans; expanding the conversation on how the people of the Emerald Isle have affected Rockaway’s communal fabric. There’s an Irish proverb that reads, “Having somewhere to go is home, having someone to love is family, having both is a blessing.” Each individual we spotlighted—Tom Murphy of Curran’s Superior Meats, Sean Sheridan of The BayHouse and Mark Edwards of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians—all shared that same sentiment. Whether you have a “wee bit of Irish,” or not, at the core of what makes Rockaway, and its residents’, standout is the cherished pride in belonging to a neighborhood family that cares. To conclude our Irish Heritage Month series, three locals share anecdotes about their Rockaway Irish experience.



Jerry Rea Affordable Auto Sales of Arverne

Rockaway Park, NY

“In 1982, I moved to 105-00 Dayton Towers West in Rockaway, and from then to now, the Irish community made me feel welcome, and I’m still here, and don’t wanna leave. I’m Italian, and I’ve personally experienced their support and love. One example is when I worked for Leon Locke at The Wave, delivering newspapers to over 80 stores. When I got into the business of selling cars, Leon would let me put classified ads in the newspaper for free. So, because Leon Locke took a liking to me, I really went into the car business. Then when I broke up with my girlfriend, I lived in my car for a few days and was gonna move back to Brooklyn, but Leon got me an apartment at 78-00 Dayton Towers East, and I’ve never looked back since. Also, another friend of mind, God bless his soul, an Irish local who owned the Lightship Restaurant and Tiki Bar, where Burn Fitness and NY Community Bank is now located on Beach 105th and Rockaway Beach Blvd., would let me sell cars out of the parking lot. The Irish in Rockaway are a united community, and really step up when there is a tragedy or need. When my girlfriend and I took custody of her son’s baby, just to show you how beautiful this community is, people gave us clothes and toys. Even The Graybeards handed my girlfriend a check for $2,000 to start the baby’s college fund. A lot of people have helped us spiritually, mentally, physically, financially. You can’t find that anywhere, but Rockaway. I remember one night at 9 p.m., I get a text that my then 20-year-old daughter was in Connolly’s. This is how this community looks out. Rockaway is a very unique, rare bird. When local bartender, George Ferguson, passed away, the outpouring of love for that man and his family was unbelievable. The Irish community really cares for the Rockaway family at large. It makes you feel good.”


Mom of five 

Rockaway Beach, NY

“I grew up in the Beach 40s with many Irish families living between Beach 43rd and 47th Street. Then, Rockaway felt like a small neighborhood. Everybody knew what block everyone lived on and looked out for each other. We would walk around the neighborhood, knowing that the older ones were looking out for us. In the summer, a lot of outsiders rented summer bungalows, and as kids, we felt proud to live in Rockaway because this is where everyone wanted to be. Many assume that only the Beach 90s had a large Irish community, but Far Rockaway has a lot of Irish history. With Mott Avenue being the main shopping area on the peninsula, there were many Irish pubs including Johnny’s on Beach 9th Street, Ye Olde Tavern and O’Gara’s on Mott Avenue, and more. Where I lived in the Beach 40s, there were two pubs within two blocks: Blue Water on Beach 45th Street and Graf’s on Beach 47th. Many of these pubs sponsored youth softball teams. I’m second-generation Irish. All of my grandparents were from Donegal. Like many Irish immigrants, they migrated to Brooklyn. They weren’t very welcome, but with hard work, they did what they had to do to survive. For example, my relatives told me a story about my grandmother, who became a widow with two young children when my grandfather died. To make a living to support her children, she made gin in the bathtub. Our families taught us to be resilient, hardworking and independent, regardless of the obstacles. Today I live in the Beach 90s raising my own family. Rockaway has changed, but as the saying goes, ‘Once you get the sand between your toes, you could never leave.’”



Knights of Columbus

Rockaway Park, NY

“As a young boy growing up in Rockaway, one of my fondest memories was living in Marcell’s Court (currently Bay Towers). Marcell’s Court was a bungalow community that existed until the late 1960s and was located between 98th and 101st Street between the Freeway and Beach Channel Drive. The Court was mainly an Irish family-oriented cluster of bungalows with most of the families coming from Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan and the Bronx to spend their summers at the beach. A few families, including mine, lived there year-round. As kids, we were fortunate as we had our Rockaway friends and our summer friends. We would play outside from early morning ‘til dusk. While at night, the adults would stroll up the street to Irish Town.”

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