Beach Channel Park

Beach Channel Park

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Beach Channel Park is located in the Rockaway Park section of Queens. It is bounded by Beach 116th and Beach 124th Streets and lies between Beach Channel Drive and the Jamaica Bay bulkhead line. The City acquired the property in three stages. In 1912, the New York Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City in a land dispute known as City of New York v. Rockaway Park Improvement Co. The following year, additional acreage was acquired through an agreement approved by the Sinking Fund. This fund, now called the Department of Citywide Administrative Services, ensured the payment of City debts by withholding parcels of land. The property had previously belonged to West Rockaway Land Co. and Belle Harbor-Edgemere Realty Co. In 1930, the Board of Estimate appropriated the complete property through a condemnation proceeding. On July 1, 1930, Parks gained jurisdiction over the park. Originally named Marine Park, Commissioner Stern gave the property its present name in 1985.

Beach Channel Park adjoins Jamaica Bay, an 18,000-acre wetland estuary bordered by the Rockaway Peninsula to the South, Brooklyn to the West, and Queens to the East. The bay has a total area nearly equal to that of Manhattan, and contains numerous islands separated by a labyrinth of waterways. The region also supports meadowlands and two freshwater ponds. The wetlands of Jamaica Bay are protected from the harsh environment of the Atlantic Ocean by the Rockaway Peninsula, and provide a unique environment for both wildlife and urban recreation. The region is host to more than 325 species of birds, 50 species of butterflies, and 100 species of fin-bearing fish. A favorite stop for migratory waterfowl, the area is an integral part of the larger, regional ecosystem. Jamaica Bay is one of New York City’s most extraordinary natural resources and remains undeveloped by virtue of federal, state, and city legislative and legal protection.

The name Rockaway is closely related to the language of the Delaware and Chippewa Native Americans. Linguistic experts recognize both Reckonwacky, meaning "the place of our own people," and Reckanawahaha, meaning "the place of laughing waters," as the area's indigenous names. Following the region's European colonization during the seventeenth century, the present name was derived from these meanings. Other interpretations include lekau, meaning sand, and lechauwaak, for fork or branch. All interpretations reflect the historic and geographic traits of the peninsula.

The Canarsie Tribe, which originally inhabited the area, sold the mostly barren land to Captain Palmer, an Englishman, with a deed granted by then Governor Thomas Dongan (1634-1715) in 1685. Disappointed with his purchase, Palmer sold the land in 1687 to a prominent iron master from Long Island, Richard Cornell, whose descendant, Ezra, founded Cornell University in 1865.

Beach Channel Park provides visitors with a grassy area, a pedestrian path, and breathtaking views of Jamaica Bay. The path permits safe passage along a busy stretch of Beach Channel Drive. The park also contains a seawall that prevents erosion and protects the surrounding community from storm floods.

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