For Humble Bungalows, a Plan to Save the Sunshine
SUSAN ANDERSON lives on Beach 26th Street in Far Rockaway, on one of the area’s remaining bungalow-lined blocks. Ms. Anderson, who is an artist, bought two bungalows on the street in 2004, and she hopes to turn the one that still has its original cedar shingles into her studio. But over the past few years she has watched in dismay the construction of a 15-story oceanfront condominium just a few yards away.
“I call it the shadow caster,” Ms. Anderson said the other day, sitting on a wooden folding chair in her kitchen, where the ceiling also has the original cedar. Shadows from such buildings irk many New Yorkers, but when they appear along the beach, and when the structures they obscure are beloved bungalows, the shade can seem especially gloomy.
To address this issue, the Department of City Planning announced on Monday a rezoning plan to stop the construction of such high-rise apartment buildings on many blocks in five neighborhoods on the Rockaway Peninsula: Far Rockaway, Somerville, Edgemere, Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach.
The proposal seeks to ensure that new buildings are developed on a scale suitable for the neighborhoods, dotted as they are by modest working-class homes with screened-in porches. Over the last few decades, many of the bungalows, which once covered the Rockaways, have been replaced by their architectural opposites, tall apartment buildings and condos.
If adopted, the plan will be the first full-scale rezoning of the Rockaways since 1961.
Jerzy Szymczyk, an owner of the building under construction next to Ms. Anderson’s, said that the proposal would hurt property values and that with one-story housing, “only one person can see the view,” as opposed to the many who can do so from a multi-unit residence.
But many residents support the plan, and some say the damage has already been done. In Rockaway Beach, just an arm’s length away from Thomas Cawley’s three-floor, white-sided home off Shore Front Parkway, a six-story condominium is nearing completion.
“I had a great view,” Mr. Cawley, who could once see the Atlantic Ocean from his windows, said as he stood in his front yard and gazed at the new building. “Now I look at a 60-foot wall.”
New condos are an increasingly common sight in the area. A few blocks away, where the Belle Shores Condominium is under construction, tiny flakes of white Styrofoam floated on the ocean breeze one recent sunny afternoon, thinly coating the neighborhood’s lawns and its cats.
Across the street from the new condo complex, which is just four stories but has 78 units, Tommy Ormsby, 52, stood on the front lawn next to his white, ivy-covered bungalow.
As the synthetic snowfall fell around him, Mr. Ormsby said he didn’t mind the local changes all that much, but he considered the traffic and crowding brought on by the development a nuisance. As he put it, “It takes the summer out of being here.”
By JAMES ANGELOS