By Terry Trucco
Today marks the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, the horrific howler that scored a direct hit on New York, killing 61, leaving scores homeless and canceling the New York City Marathon.
Since this is a hotel blog, we’ll point out that Sandy’s high winds and raging waters closed a slew of hotels in lower Manhattan as well midtown, where the Parker-Meridien was among those endangered when a construction crane atop a luxury apartment tower came unhinged and dangled precariously over West 57th Street.
That was then. Not only did the hotels recover, but the Park Hyatt, situated high in that nascent 57th Street tower, opened earlier this year without a hitch, Sandy is a mere memory.
Memories of the storm are considerably more raw in Rockaway Beach, the newly hip Queens oceanfront where Sandy hit especially hard. But the beach proved a potent draw this past summer, luring scores of sunbathers, surfers, even art enthusiasts (Patti Smith and MOMA PS1 staged several shows). And when Memorial Day rolls around
next year visitors to what was once a flourishing early 20th-century resort may have a new option for overnighting a short walk from the water.
Earlier this year we reported on Camp Rockaway, a germ of an idea for a laid-back, low-cost campgrounds with creature comforts like beds instead of sleeping bags and tents on wood platforms, complete with decks and adjoining pup tents for kids. In June the project reached its Kickstarter goal, raising more than $50,000 to finance the necessary design and construction plans to move the endeavor forward. Late this summer a sample tent went up on an empty lot ringed by houses steps away from the beach.
A low-key party offered a literal taste of what Camp Rockaway might look and feel like if things go as Kent Johnson, the man with the plan, hopes. A rainy mist didn’t dampen the mood as a small gathering, mostly from the immediate neighborhood and Brooklyn, sipped beer and toasted marshmallows for s’mores over a roaring campfire.
As kids scampered past tiki torches and scoped out the chicken coop at one end of the grounds, adults relaxed in lawn chairs under a large tree, bounced on the tent’s neatly made bed and clustered around a picnic table where you could tie-dye T-shirts.
Inspiration for Camp Rockaway were Rockaway Beach’s early 20th-century tent
communities, a fixture during its heyday as a resort for heat-weary New Yorkers who couldn’t afford to stay at beach-side hotels. The efficient 21st-century incarnation pitched on the lot looked inviting. A flap on the peaked roof lifts to accommodate the chimney of a wood-burning stove. Storage cubbies nestle under the queen-size bed. And simple side chairs give the tent a residential feel.
A project backer has been camping out in the tent this fall, road-testing the amenities, the glamping equivalent of a soft opening at a hotel.
Will Camp Rockaway be ready to roll come spring? Johnson isn’t sure. There’s still lots to do, from securing a site to obtaining permits. But the party, which gained torque as strings of white lights blinked on at dusk, offered a preview of what he hopes will unfold. “It’s the feeling we want,” he said.