In 1977, when Queens natives the Ramones released “Rockaway Beach,” the punk band’s classic paean to the borough’s oceanside neighborhood, it was against a backdrop of high crime and low budgets. Fast forward to 2012 and, like much of the city, the working-class riviera—the largest urban beach and boardwalk in the nation—had gone from worn-out to welcoming. Then came the epic devastation of Hurricane Sandy. Eight years later, rebuilding efforts are nearing completion. And now comes a crowning jewel, the Rockaway Hotel, which embodies the coastal getaway’s restored charm and relaxed aspirations.
A spit of land a few blocks wide, the Rockaway peninsula sits between Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, with the skyscrapers of Manhattan glimmering like the Emerald City in the distance. Its ready accessibility by bridge, subway, and ferry made it an attractive site for the new hotel, the brainchild of sustainability-minded developer 7G Realty, which took a hands-off approach in its brief to Morris Adjmi Architects and Curious Yellow Design. “We wanted to strike a balance of urban and beach,” recalls 7G partner and chief social impact officer Michi Jigarjian, who was determined that the building not disrupt its context of row bungalows and low-rise apartment blocks.
Morris Adjmi was a perfect fit for the project, having won a load of street cred years earlier with his seminal Wythe Hotel in Williamsburg, Brooklyn—another high-profile property that helped transform a neglected city neighborhood.
Although Adjmi’s 84,000-square-foot Rockaway Hotel encompasses a restaurant, rooftop bar, street-side coffee shop, large-scale event space, and outdoor pool area, it delicately nods to the existing architectural topography, complementing the historic bungalows, some of which date to the 1920s. They determined the hotel’s modest six-story height as well as the use of zinc exterior
paneling, which echoes the row houses’ colors and style. “We tried to create something with a relaxed vibe that really fits in the neighborhood and becomes an instant go-to place,” Adjmi says. “It feels like it belongs here.”
Curious Yellow was also influenced by the hotel’s setting as well as ’60s beach culture. Partners Anna Cappelen and Chloe Pollack-Robbins—veterans of a previous oceanside success, the Hero Beach Club in Long Island’s Montauk—created an eclectic yet calming atmosphere embellished with items that a contemporary surfer might have collected on the road. “It’s a place where the city’s grit and luxury and the beach all come crashing into each other,” Cappelen says.