Belle Harbor, Queens
|Neighborhood of Queens|
|Area code(s)||718, 347, 917|
Belle Harbor is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. It is a tight-knit, affluent community located on the western half of the Rockaway Peninsula, the southernmost area of the borough. A large number of residents are of Irish or Italian descent and are often members of the NYPD, FDNY, or a financial firm on Wall Street. Belle Harbor is typically referred to the area between Beach 126th and Beach 141st Streets. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 14. According to the 2010 United States Census, the neighborhood, coupled with nearby Neponsit, had a population just over 5,400.
The opening of passenger railroad service in 1880 to Rockaway Park from Long Island City and from Flatbush Terminal (now Atlantic Terminal) in downtown Brooklyn, via the Long Island Railroad's Rockaway Beach Branch, facilitated population growth on the Rockaways Peninsula.
The makings of Belle Harbor began in 1900, when a New York State judge ordered that the land west of Rockaway Park be put up for auction. The area that makes up Belle Harbor and the neighboring community of Neponsit was bought by Edward P. Hatch, whom after a couple years, sold it to the West Rockaway Land Company in 1907. The president of the company, Frederick J. Lancaster, who had earlier developed the Edgemere neighborhood, officially gave the community its name. Prior to Lancaster's acquisition of the land, however, a group of men wishing to form a yacht club entered into a grant agreement with the West Rockaway Land Company in 1905. The group, which had named itself the Belle Harbor Yacht Club, bought property from the company for four-thousand dollars. The agreement included two-hundred square feet of land and thirty plots of upland. That same year, the group received corporation status by the State of New York, and by 1908 began participating in its first inter-club ocean races with some of the city's other yacht clubs.
On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587, bound for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, crashed in the center of Belle Harbor, killing all 260 passengers and crew on board the plane, as well as five people on the ground. Many of the passengers on the plane were from the Dominican community in Washington Heights. After consultation with families in the Belle Harbor and Washington Heights communities, a memorial was erected at Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park, a major shopping district and transportation hub in the area, making it accessible to all. Although a temporary memorial was developed at the actual site of the disaster, on Newport Avenue, many still annually gravitate toward that area for commemoration. In 2001, a resident stated to The Guardian: "It's impossible to understand unless you live here ... Father Michael Geraghty, a priest quoted in the same article, said that it was common for people to live in the houses that their parents lived in and that many families lived in the same houses for generations. The neighborhood suffered heavy losses from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."
Belle Harbor is a suburban enclave on the Rockaway Peninsula, on a narrow barrier peninsula sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Jamaica Bay to the north. It is further bordered by the neighborhood of Neponsit to the west and Rockaway Park to the east. Expansive views of the Manhattan skyline can be seen across the bay. Broad, white sandy beaches have drawn residents to the area. Although the beach is ostensibly open to the public, rigorously enforced street parking restrictions in effect on weekends and holidays from May 15 to September 30, combined with limited direct access to the insular area via public transportation, limits access for non-residents.
Belle Harbor is primarily made up of single-family homes with a majority of third and fourth generation Irish Catholic upper class residents. The community also has Italian-American and Jewish American populations, and is home to a large number of New York City police officers and firefighters, both active and retired.
A commercial center is located on Beach 129th Street. A larger shopping area used by some residents of Belle Harbor is located on Beach 116th Street in the neighborhood of Rockaway Park, Queens, east of Belle Harbor on the Rockaway Peninsula.
Passenger car access to the area is available via the Marine Parkway–Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, which provides access to Brooklyn, and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, which connects to Broad Channel and mainland Queens.
Belle Harbor residents are zoned for schools in the New York City Department of Education. Residents are zoned to P.S. 114 for grades K-8. Additionally there are some private schools within the area including Saint Francis De Sales, a Catholic School, and three Jewish schools: West End Temple Nursery School, Yeshiva of Belle Harbor, and Yeshiva Mercaz Hatorah of Belle Harbor.
- Queens Community Boards, New York City. Accessed 3 September 2007.
- "Census Nonsense" The Wave, accessed 27 January 2012
- "Plane Crash in Queens." Seconds From Disaster. [documentary TV series]
- Seyfried, Vincent; Asadorian, William (1999). Old Rockaway, New York, in Early Photographs. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications. p. 93. ISBN 0-486-40668-7. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
- "A Queens Timeline", Queens Tribune; accessed December 14, 2006
- "Club History", Belle Harbor Yacht Club; accessed January 28, 2012
- Younge, Gary. "Flight to the death: Just two months after 9/11, a Queens suburb suffered the second-worst plane crash in US history. Five years on, residents tell Gary Younge, the cause remains worryingly unresolved", The Guardian, 11 November 2006; accessed 24 January 2008. "On flight 587, myriad immigrant stories of hope foundered. On board was Hilda Yolanda Mayol, 26, a waitress who had escaped from the north tower of the World Trade Center and was heading to the Dominican Republic with her mother and children to take her mind off the trauma."
- Yarrow, Andrew L. "Out and About on Memorial Day: How to Find That Sand and Surf", New York Times, May 23, 1986. Accessed October 12, 2007. "Inland, on the blocks between beach and bay, are the well-kept neighborhoods of Neponsit and Belle Harbor. If you're coming by car, daytime street parking is prohibited on weekends and holidays from May 15 to September 30 between Beach 117th and Beach 149th Street..."