New York Daily Photo Analytics

Monday, February 23, 2009

Venice, New York

I do try to limit my use of superlatives, lest I diminish their effectiveness through overuse or run out of words to properly characterize the next greater thing. However, I am quite happy to take a few words from my superlatives bank account and to spend them on Broad Channel, Queens. Because this is the most extraordinary neighborhood I have visited to date.

A tour through this tiny enclave is truly a vacation to another time and place. As can be easily seen from today's photo, Broad Channel is a maritime community. It is located on the only inhabited island in Jamaica Bay.
The island was initially settled by the Lenape Indians. In the 1600s, a community was established by the Dutch. It was part of the Town of Jamaica and, in 1898, became part of New York City, In 1915, the city leased the island the the Broad Channel Corporation, which in turn leased properties to residents. It filed bankruptcy in 1939. Between that time and 1982, the city of New York took over. In 1982, properties were made available for sale to residents by the city for the first time.

I made a visit to the local grocery store and immediately made the acquaintance of two residents, one being Art McCarthy of over 50 years. I learned that the town is only 20 blocks long and 4 wide, cut in half by Cross Bay Boulevard, which is connected to land by two bridges - the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge to mainland Queens to the north, and the Joseph P. Addabbo Memorial Bridge to the Rockaway Peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. The population numbers approximately 3,000 with 1000 homes. I was told that the island was about 60% Irish - a quick glance at the newsstand confirmed this - three Irish newspapers were prominently displayed.

Often referred to as the Venice of New York, dead end streets are separated by canals and many residents have boats moored at their houses. Fishing, clamming, and other aquatic activities are the draw here. The weather was rather cold and windy, so my explorations were made by car, with an occasional foray out for photos. The vistas were beautiful and reminiscent of my times in Cape Cod. The view west from town provides distant vistas of Manhattan, framed by the wildlife refuge and other islands of the Gateway Recreational Area and Jamaica Bay.

A surprising feature of this community is its accessibility; located an hour from Manhattan, it can be reached by subway - the A train, which travels across the bay to Rockaway, makes a stop right in Broad Channel - see photos here.
Broad Channel is certainly no secret among seekers of the the lesser known places of New York City. You will find it listed online and in books featuring hidden New York, forgotten New York, other islands of New York, nooks and crannies of New York, etc. The New York Times has run a number of articles on the enclave. Broad Channel is a natural target - the type of place people and media love to discover and talk or write about.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing is that the community is located within National Park land - the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which can be accessed by foot from the town. But that's another story...


Will Hennessy said...

fascinating...thanks for sharing!

Brian Dubé said...

Will - I am planning to go again. I drove on this occasion, but it must be amazing to step off the A train to enter this world.

Jacob said...

I had no idea. Thank you for the information and for the beautiful and informative photograph.

Terry B said...

You know, Brian, I count on you for NYC fixes. When I saw the picture, I assumed it was from a vacation somewhere up the Atlantic coast. Not that I begrudge you a vacation, but I was a little disappointed--until I read that you were indeed showing me yet another surprising little corner of NYC I didn't recognize. How do you keep doing this?

Julie said...

excellent photo and what a surprise to learn it is in NYC. Thanks for sharing a very unique hidden community in NYC.

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