The Bungalows of Rockaway


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.

Hotel for Hipsters


TOURISTS WHO WANT TO SEE THE REAL NEW YORK need look no further than the new Hotel Le Jolie in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. While a good portion of the hotel’s 54 rooms have spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline to the west, my 7th floor room on the opposite side of the building had an expansive but much more workaday vista: the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, with car tail lights twinkling away toward the southeast.

Which was fine by me. I am not a tourist. I lived in New York City for decades and don’t need to see the skyline at every turn; I was in town for a night to organize repairs and garden clean-up at my Cobble Hill townhouse while the tenants are in Europe. This overage hipster found the Hotel Le Jolie, part of a small boutique operation that also includes the glitzier Hotel Le Bleu in the South Slope, convenient and perfectly adequate.


Rooms start as low as $140 a night. They are small but well-appointed, with an iPod dock, free Wi-Fi, premium cable channels, exceptionally comfortable beds, and luxurious bath products (utilitarian bath, though). With Manhattan one stop away on the L train (Lorimer is the nearest subway stop), the hotel is well-positioned for midtown sightseeing, and certainly for exploring the shops, bars, restaurants, and galleries of Williamsburg, whose center is a few blocks away.

Free parking is a plus. I would skip the ho-hum breakfast (free though it is) and go to a neighborhood cafe instead.


I imagine some foreign visitors might be disappointed to find themselves in such a non-neighborhood. But I heard only American voices in the lobby and breakfast room, and they all seemed satisfied.

East Hampton Village Oldie 695K Negotiable


THIS UNTOUCHED TRADITIONAL dates from when Montauk Highway was already a main thoroughfare, yes, but what that meant was a dirt road with horses and carts clopping along — not the never-ending stream of car and truck traffic that exists today.


Pity, because the house and property are just what I’d want in a different spot: a late 19th century cedar-shingled 4BR, with lots of original detail inside, on almost an acre, and taxes under $2,000/year.


There are lots of good things about it. The long gravel drive and the backyard actually have a secluded feeling, almost a secret-garden feeling. The house is set back a fair distance from the busy road, and perched on a hill. There’s no reason why the front yard couldn’t be enclosed with a fence and high hedge.


Needs TLC, as the ads put it, but that’s far better, in my book, than paying the price for a slick modern renovation that has de-charmed the place entirely.


To see more pics of the interior, for more info or an appointment to see, contact Dennis Avedon at Corcoran, 516/398-6751,

Yard Sale Booty + Another Map Giveaway

UPDATE: Jordy P., fan of Jersey Shore yard sales, is the winner of the Texaco map – congrats, Jordy!

To enter casaCARA’s vintage map giveaway (I’m giving away a 1930s Texaco map of New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey, pictured below), all you have to do is leave a COMMENT on this post! How easy is that? (Just click on “[Number of] Comments” in small type, above.) Drawing to be held via this Friday, 7/23, at 6PM.


Framed seed packet collection, 33″x41″, $30

YARD SALE SEASON IS IN FULL SWING here in the Humptons. There are so many each weekend, it’s impossible to get to all of them — or at least, it’s impossible to be first to all of them. A fair number are in older houses, and the pickin’s are emphatically not slim. They are robust.

Most people here have had some semblance of money, so one finds genuine antiques and name-brand merch of quality, like LeCreuset cookware and mega-thread count bed linens, rather than the detritus of households that never had much to begin with. Also, there’s a lot of seasonal moving in and out, which tends to lead to yard sales.

This past weekend, I was looking for a farmhouse dining table. I didn’t find one, but here’s what I did find. OK, nothing earth-shattering here. But enough to make my couple of hours driving around worthwhile.

The unusual item at the top of this post was my first and best find, around 8AM on Saturday. What is it? I’m not sure. Looks like a color-coded collection of vintage seed packets, mounted on a purple board and professionally framed in a contemporary wood frame. Whether they’re actual seed packets or perhaps prototype designs for seed packets, I wouldn’t know, unless I took the thing apart. Anyway, it’s big and graphic and I needed something for my kitchen wall.


Pair of wrought iron candle sconces, 1940s or ’50s, $10


Marble cheese board with glass cloche, $5


The 1987 burgundy, above, was my friend Nancy’s score. Could be transcendental, could be undrinkable — to be determined. $10


9″ ceramic planter with green mottled glaze marked “Made in Italy,” $5


More vintage maps! They’re 1930s New York-area maps, plus one the homeowner told me dates from his grandparents’ trip to Hawaii in 1956. I should have bought them all the first time around but contented myself with three. This past weekend, I had a second chance (people often have repeat sales until they finally get rid of everything). I got four more maps for $10. Big spender!

Now to the giveaway: I’m giving away the Texaco map pictured at right in the picture above; you can see details of it in the two pictures below.

So please let me hear from you in the comments. What are the yard (tag, stoop, garage, barn, estate) sales like where you are? Get anything good recently?



A Garden Bed, Literally


HOW CLEVER IS THIS? Surely it gives new meaning to the term “flower bed.”

The creation of Geoffrey Nimmer and Jack de Lashmet of East End Garden Design, it was an entry in last month’s container-planting invitational competition at LongHouse Reserve, a 16-acre sculpture garden in East Hampton, N.Y.

Geoffrey told me it took a week to put together, using elements of green wall technology to get things to grow on the sides as well as the top of the “mattress.” A wood frame was packed with soil and covered with landscape fabric; then plants were inserted in holes cut in the fabric.

The dust ruffle is acorus ‘Ogon’ (golden sweet flag). The argyle bedspread is made up of lime-colored sagana subulata ‘Aurea’ (scotch moss) and thyme, with purple flowers. Pieces of stone pool tile make up the white criss-cross bands.

Talk about bedding plants (oh, it’s so easy to pun)!