Rockaway is located on the Rockaway Peninsula in the New York City borough of Queens, with one of the largest urban beach in the United States, stretching for miles along the Rockaway Peninsula facing the Atlantic Ocean. The beach is run and operated by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
What is now Rockaway Beach was formerly two different villages, Holland and Hammels. In 1857, Michael P. Holland had purchased land and named the area after himself. Soon after, Louis Hammel, an immigrant from Germany, bought a tract of land just east of Holland. In 1878 he decided to give portions of his land to the New York, Woodhaven and Rockaway Railroad in order to build a railroad station for the peninsula. The area around it became collectively known as “Hammels”. In 1897 it merged with Holland and became known as the Village of Rockaway Beach. One year later, it was incorporated into the City of Greater New York and became part of the newly formed borough of Queens. However, the neighborhood, along with the eastern communities of Arverne and Far Rockaway, tried to secede from the city several times. In 1915 and 1917, a bill approving the secession passed in the legislature but was vetoed by the mayor at the time, John Purroy Mitchel.
In the early 1900s, the newly built railroad station opened up the community and the rest of the peninsula to a broad range of the population. The wealthy no longer had a monopoly on the peninsula, as various amusement parks, stores, and resort hotels attracted people from all over the city to spend the day or a whole summer there. Much of the area was developed by James S. Remsen and William Wainwright. In this era, it became known as “New York’s Playground”. Rockaway’s famous amusement park, Rockaways’ Playland, was built in 1901 and quickly became a major attraction for people around the region.