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Islands of New York City: Big Egg Marsh, Little Cuba, and a Broad Channel

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Broad Channel., Digital ID 836925, New York Public LibraryBelieve it or not, all of these names at one point referred to the same place: the only inhabited island in the Jamaica Bay, now known as Broad Channel. Have you ever been to Broad Channel? If you have, then you know that it looks nothing like the rest of New York City. Having spent half of my youth in Queens and the other half on the east end of Long Island, I can say that the Jamaica Bay area looks far more like the latter than the former. How did this happen?

To start, Broad Channel has a history of being resistant to change. Established as a fishing village in the late nineteenth century, it became entangled in Henry A. Meyer’s proposition in 1910 to turn Jamaica Bay into a major port for trade and tourism (a proposition which, thankfully, fell through). You can read all of the wordy details in the Proceedings of the Barge Canal Terminal Commission of the State of New York. Broad Channel also refused to accept Prohibition laws in the 1920’s, and having no roads connecting it to the rest of the city, it became a haven for rum runners and yacht clubs, earning the nickname, Little Cuba.

One of the island’s most impressive demonstrations of resistance, however, was against the great Robert Moses, City Park’s Commissioner under Mayor La Guardia. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, Moses was a man with big ideas; he had huge plans for the Jamaica Bay area. It would become a wildlife refuge which would require the depopulation of Broad Channel. After a several year battle, Broad Channel residents defeated Moses, keeping their homes. Moses would create the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in the area surrounding the island, thus preserving its natural environment. However, unlike Montauk, Broad Channel has its own subway stop.

Writing this post I consulted some of my favorite works on New York City: W.P.A. guide to NYC, Encyclopedia of New York City, A.I.A. Guide to New York City, Forgotten New York, Jamaica Bay, The other islands of New York City and of course, the New York Times.

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I grew up in the northeast

I grew up in the northeast corner of New Jersey, and my maternal grandparents lived in Glendale, Queens. I have a vivid memory of a special weekend I spent with my grandparents (without my parents or sisters!) when I was about 8 (late 1950s). We went to Broad Channel for the day, and my grandfather took me clamming. We had to wear sneakers, but when we felt a clam underfoot, I would duck underwater to grab it. We took home the clams we found, and my grandfather opened them at the kitchen sink. Mostly my grandmother sat on some wooden steps leading down to the water as I jumped around and paddled in the water. I remember thinking it was strange seeing her in a bathing suit. Thinking back now, it looked like an old, rather run-down dock, but it lives in my mind as a wonderful, bright summer day.

What a lovely memory - thank

What a lovely memory - thank you for sharing it! Some of my favorite memories took place in locations that seem otherwise insignificant. I suppose it's the stories we attach to places that make them very special. Sachiko Clayton

Broad channel and the Rockaways

I remember broad channel as a quiet ,secretive type section of Queens as we traveled to the Rockways. my children went to day camp at the tip of Broad Channel near the toll bridge before you went over into the Rockaways. I lived on 56th street and beach channel drive and the summers were great,the girls even better and the activities at the various hotels interesting for a young man growing up. It was an interesting time of my life.

The Raunt

I spent idyllic summers in The Raunt which was an inhabited community in Jamaica Bay built on stilts. Robert Moses had it condemned and destroyed in the 1950's. My grandparents home was torn down and washed away in the tides. I have great memories of time spent in The Raunt. Sometimes my G'father would row us over to nearby Broad Channel or we could take the LIRR to Playland. I doubt that there are many people who now remember The Raunt.

The Raunt and the Triplets

Diane, I am one of the Bachant Triplets, Jack McKeag's stepdaughters. I remember the same wonderful times at Nana and Pop Pop's house in the Raunt. I have many photos of the old Raunt n the 1940s and 50s, even a video. If you are interested in sharing photos by email, let me know. Nancy Bachant

I HAVE NO PHOTOS ONLY GREAT MEMORIES

Dear Nancy, I worked for my uncle Domanick Andriano delivering ice to the Raunt. We would put the ice in a row boat, and one of the men who lived at the Raunt would deliver the ice, coal and kerosene to the people. I worked there every summer in the 1940s. It was the most wonderful part of my young life living on W. 9th Road, in Broad Channel, in the summer. Vinnie

I HAVE NO PHOTOS ONLY GREAT MEMORIES

Dear Nancy, I worked for my uncle Domanick Andriano delivering ice to the Raunt, We would put the ice in a row boat, and one of the men who lived at the Raunt would deliver the ice, coal and kerosene to the people. I worked there every summer in the 1940s.It was the most wonderful part of my young life living in B.C. during the summers , on w. 9th road. VINNIE

No Photos, But the Best Memories...

Dear Nancy, I worked for my uncle Domanick Andriano delivering ice to the Raunt. We would put the ice in a row boat, and one of the men who lived at the Raunt would deliver the ice, coal and kerosene to the people. I worked there every summer in the 1940s.It was the most wonderful part of my young life living in B.C. during the summers , on W. 9th road. VINNIE

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