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TWO WEEKS AFTER SANDY, my friend M., who has invested huge sums of money and energy fixing up a 1930s bungalow, above, in the far reaches of Queens, New York, has just had her first experience with FEMA. A few blocks of vintage bungalows in the beachside community of Far Rockaway, survivors among a onetime colony of thousands, took a beating in the recent storm.
Most of the time, the beachfront location is a plus. M. thoroughly enjoyed her first summer in her bright, colorfully renovated bungalow, whose interior is shown here. She had even been considering living there full-time, as many of her neighbors do. After Sandy’s havoc, she’s probably not so sure.
Power has not yet been restored. The water went as high as 3’3″ in M’s basement (fortunately she has one), ruining her brand new boiler and hot water heater. FEMA came last Friday to assess the damage. M. says the assessor seemed generous on his visit, noting damage she had missed and putting it all in his report. Twenty four hours later, with efficiency I never imagined the Federal government capable of, she had an email from FEMA. The decision: M was to be given a grant of $499.99 (why not a round $500?) and offered a Federal loan of 50K. “So much for that!” she says.
M.’s report from the front today: “The situation out there is getting desperate, not so much in the bungalow colony, especially with the weather warming up a bit, but elsewhere. Utter devastation and too many poor people, too much public housing. Lines for food and supplies everywhere. Nothing much open business-wise and I wonder how many of them will reopen. Looks like a Third World country.” Transportation is still disrupted; the commute to Manhattan, normally under an hour, can take four.
Rockaway’s unique bungalow community will survive and who knows? In years to come, the whole area may see a turnaround. But it could take decades. Right now, focus is all on clean-up. “It’s exhausting,” M. says. “And I was one of the least hard hit.”
To read the back story of M’s search for a Rockaway bungalow and see photos before and during renovation, go here.
Among the perennially popular posts on this blog are two that constitute a bungalow-by-bungalow tour of the colony as it looked in February 2012. Rainy Day Rockaway, Part I is here For Rainy Day Rockaway, Part II, go here.
VINTAGE BEACH BUNGALOWS in New York City. Yes, they still exist, though in numbers much smaller than they used to, and on only two blocks in any significant concentration: Beach 24th and 25th Streets in Far Rockaway, in the distant reaches of Queens. I was there the other day to visit a friend who’s just finished renovating one of the more dire specimens, to see her dramatic improvements. (Read M.’s ‘before and during’ story here. ‘After’ photos to come.)
She gave me a tour of the district. M. knows the back story on each and every bungalow. Who lives there, for how long, whether they own or rent, what kind of work they do, how many kids they have, the state of their health, and more. It’s a friendly community, and M. has met a lot of people in the 2 or 3 years she’s been working on finding, buying, and fixing up her place.
Each bungalow has its individual character. Some are painted bright Caribbean colors, a couple look like the surf shacks you might have found in the Venice Beach of old. Many retain their original striped awnings. Some have new roofs and smooth stucco; others are sadly peeling and sagging.
Weather-wise, it was a dull day, good for capturing the melancholia of these stalwart 1920s cottages. Enjoy the tour, and be sure to let me know in the comments which you like best.
For more information on Rockaway bungalows, and to see another of my previous posts on the subject, go here.
WordPress is balking at so large a post; to be continued in Rainy Day Rockaway, Part II.
A WEEK IN MAUI exhausted my supply of superlatives: spectacular, magnificent, stunning, incredible…not to mention oohhh and aaahhh. Maui is all that, as was confirmed again by a 20-mile drive (at 10-15mph) on Tuesday along the island’s northeastern tip — a drive often likened for scenic beauty to the more famous Road to Hana at Maui’s other end.
This northern road, below (Rt. 340; officially, Kahekili Highway, though no one seems to call it that), weaves along an ancient coastal footpath, providing awe-inspiring views of the ocean, verdant hills dotted with the occasional cattle ranch, and dramatic rock formations.
I had been wussy about this drive at first. It sounded treacherous. The breakfast conversation at our B&B in Wailuku was all about the road: how it was vertigo-inducing and only wide enough for a single car. Many maps indicate a dotted line, with the words “4-wheel-drive vehicles only,” which my rented Ford Focus was not.
Eventually I agreed to give it a go, with my daughter Zoë at the wheel (she’d driven it before). It was thrilling, and felt perfectly safe. There’s enough land between the edge of the road and the drop-off to the water that I didn’t ever feel we were about to go over a cliff. There are railings or fences along most of it, and it’s decently paved, if narrow (we did have to back up, carefully, in several places to give those coming in the opposite direction the right of way).
Part of the fun was stopping in the remote and enterprising town of Kahakuloa, above, deep in a valley, where local residents have set up colorful stands selling dried mango slices, fresh cut pineapple in Ziploc bags, and home-baked banana bread to sustain hungry travelers.
Having survived the drive, we explored a couple of the rugged, windswept beaches on the north shore of Maui, uncrowded except for a few snorkelers and surfers, then made our way back to Wailuku via the regular highway — roundabout but relatively quick. We had a delicious, inexpensive Vietnamese dinner in Wailuku at A Saigon Cafe.
The Old Wailuku Inn at Ulupono, above, home base for my last three nights in Maui, is a rambling 1920s house inside a leafy gated courtyard. The inn’s ten large rooms and public spaces, decorated with bamboo furniture and flower prints, have an Old Hawaii feel.
The inn is quiet and comfortable, and they think of everything: roll-up mats and towels for the beach, healthy snacks available at any hour of day or night, guidebooks to Maui’s history, flowers, fish, and birds in every room. Janice Fairbanks, who runs the inn with her husband Tom, whips up banana/macadamia nut pancakes, fresh fruit salads in scalloped-edge papaya cups, and other scrumptious breakfast treats every morning. Below, our Lokelani room.
The centrally located town of Wailuku had a bustling commercial center before the advent of nearby shopping malls. Now it has a sleepy little historic district with a 1928 Art Deco movie house, below, now used for community theater productions, as its centerpiece.
Wailuku’s main claim to tourist fame is the jungle-like Iao Valley, with its 1,200-foot-tall ‘needle’ of basalt, below.
This area was the scene of a bloody battle between Maui warriors and forces led by King Kamehameha, who sought to unify the Hawaiian islands (under his own rule, of course) in the 1790s. We found the state park at Iao Valley thronged with families trekking through rainforest glades, and exploring the bite-size native botanical garden, below.
Below, how bananas begin.
A visit to Wailuku’s 1833 Bailey House, below, now a museum of Hawaiian ethnographic and missionary history, with its lovely collection of local landscape paintings done in the late 19th century by Massachusetts-born missionary Edward Bailey, was a fine top-off to my Maui experience.
Of course, I couldn’t resist snapping a few examples of Wailuku’s older bungalow-style houses, below, on our way out of town.
All good vacations must end, sadly. This is my last Maui post; I wrote most of it on the plane en route to JFK and am now back in the land of the brownstones. But my head is still in Hawaii. If anyone has Hawaii tips, please share them in the comments. I know I’ll be back.
SOME OF MY EARLIEST MEMORIES revolve around Far Rockaway, the working-class seaside resort in Queens, N.Y., where my family spent time in the summer. We lived in Queens, but at the opposite end of the borough. We traveled to our vacation destination on the subway, back when it had woven wicker seats and overhead fans.
I was probably a 2-year-old, but one with a formidable memory. I remember playing in the sand with my cousins, tin pails and shovels, and the terror of the outdoor showers. I can still see picnic tables covered with red-checked cloths and oil tankers out at sea, which my grandfather pointed out to me (and so taught me to read my first word: ESSO).
We stayed at a white clapboard boarding house owned by my great aunt Manya, but also etched in my memory are the small bungalows, built in the first three decades of the 20th century, that lined the streets leading down to the Atlantic.
Fast forward to the early 1970s when, living in Manhattan, I went to check out those Rockaway bungalows and see whether they still existed. Some did, I found, and were then on the market for around $30,000. I was powerfully put off by the dangerous neighborhood, the stained mattresses and drug paraphernalia in some of them.
So I was delighted to read today, via the website Brooklyn Based’s weekly tip sheet, that someone has actually gone and made a documentary film about the bungalows of Rockaway. Turns out some 450 of them (out of an original total of about 7,000) still exist, as do some of their original occupants, who have been duly interviewed. (The film link above has archival photos and postcards.)
The film will be available on DVD in September. Meanwhile, there are three screenings upcoming:
Thursday, July 29 (SOLD OUT)
Museum of the City of New York
Saturday, July, 31, 5PM
The Queens Museum of Art
Sunday, August 22, 7:30PM – Reservations required by August 13
Post Theater, Fort Tilden, Rockaway
For armchair film-goers, Channel 13′s website has a video of a 2008 panel discussion with producers of the then-in-progress documentary and assorted preservationists, worth watching for interesting tidbits like the fact that Henry Hohauser, the architect behind some of the best Art Deco hotels in Miami’s South Beach, designed many Rockaway bungalows, and that styles varied from Arts and Crafts to English Tudor.
Further, a new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, due out in September, was partly filmed in Rockaway (even though it’s supposed to be Atlantic City), with streets re-created, below, to look as they did back in the day.
Yet more info is here, at a local preservationist’s website.
DOMINO MAGAZINE IS FOLDING, and I am devastated. Hard on the heels of Cottage Living, my other favorite magazine is ceasing to publish. Why why why why WHY??!!!???
As if it wasn’t enough to lose Cottage Living, Country Living, O at Home, the infant Blueprint — not to mention HG — now this lively, original, and inspiring magazine, that just made you want to go re-arrange furniture and paint a wall pink, is no more.
I never subscribed, because I just couldn’t wait to receive it in the mail if there was any chance of finding it at a newsstand a day or two earlier.
Domino was fun and and unpretentious — they never shied from IKEA furniture, if it was used well — and they featured mostly old houses, often in Brooklyn. In the February ’09 issue (March ’09 will be the last), there’s a 1930s brick row house in Brussels, Belgium; a gingerbread Victorian in New Orleans; and a couple of L.A. bungalows.
A few months back, irresistibly, they featured Chase Booth’s three-week makeover of a dank ’70s ranch with an acoustical tile ceiling in Columbia County, and made it look GREAT.
Is the economy really THAT bad?
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From today’s mediabistro.com: Conde Nast to Fold Domino (UnBeige)
Conde Nast is folding Domino, the young “Shopping Magazine for Your Home” launched in April of 2005. A final March issue will be published, and Dominomag.com will be shuttered. “This decision … is driven entirely by the economy,” said Conde Nast president and CEO Charles Townsend. BusinessWeek: Domino and the folly of the magazine spin-off. NYO: A spokeswoman said Domino editor Deborah Needleman and publisher Beth Brenner would both leave the company, but that some staff would be given new jobs at Conde Nast. NYP: Though the upscale shelter magazine was a money loser, Newhouse’s decision caught insiders and outsiders by surprise.