Just about exactly a year ago, I had the pleasure of posting some of Larry Deemer’s spectacular photographs from his local beach at Breezy Point, Queens, New York. I’ve kept in touch with Larry since then and, for a couple of bucks and a thirty-five minute subway ride, we escaped Manhattan a couple of weeks ago and journeyed to the limits of Brooklyn. Larry had graciously agreed to my taking up his kind invitation to see his beach for myself, and whisked us down Flatbush Avenue, and across Jamaica Bay – resonant names! – into the borough of Queens and out onto the ever-changing chunk of Atlantic-facing sand that is the Rockaway Peninsula and Breezy Point. Reflecting its nationally-unique demographics, the community is often referred to as “the Irish Riviera.” Its year-round residents number only a few thousand, amongst whom are our generous and hospitable hosts for that afternoon, Larry, Lou, and Buck.
What a place to live – just a subway ride and a million miles from Manhattan, with the ability simply to stroll out and enjoy the ever-changing days, seasons, and moods of the beach. It was warm and appropriately breezy afternoon, and we walked, talking, stopping to enjoy and collect the variety of treasures that the beach had to offer that day, watch the birds, photograph the patterns. A truly memorable and immensely enjoyable few hours:
And here’s a scale quiz: one of the photos below is from Breezy Point beach, the other is from Mars – which is which?
Larry told us how the beach had grown over the last fifty years, partly as the result of the construction of the jetty at the end of the sand spit, the longshore drift of sand down the coast from Long Island being backed up behind it, building back eastwards along the coast. So I looked at the USGS website and immediately found two publications on the sedimentary history of Breezy Point and the Gateway National Recreation Area. The links are given at the end of this post, but here’s the introduction to one of them, and an image that dramatically shows the scale of shifting sands over little more than a century:
Had you planned a visit to Breezy Point before the Civil War you would have been in for a surprise. It did not exist! All the land west of the vicinity of Jacob Riis Park has formed within a little more than a century. This is largely because of the construction of a groin field to protect the beaches at Fort Tilden, and the placement of the Breezy Point jetty to prevent the filling of Rockaway Inlet. The sand has been contributed naturally by the westward longshore drift along the south shore of Long Island, particularly the Rockaway barrier island and sources offshore.