The peninsula is known for its panoramic views of New York, and the hotel, which is wrapped in zinc paneling and stands six stories high, offers all of them. There is the ocean to the south, the bay to the north, the bridge into Brooklyn and the Manhattan skyline just beyond it. Bungalows, some of which were built in the 1920s, punctuate the streets, their clapboard exteriors and sagging telephone wires proof of an enduring beachfront community.
On the roof, a large wooden bar with a marble and black metal top is set behind a wall of glass windows was designed to entertain outdoor dining guests even on the windiest of nights, acting as a shield against the strong winds that come off the ocean, says Jigarjian, reinforcing the local knowledge that went into the construction of the site. “The wind, the light—it was all considered.”
Due to the coronavirus’s looming second wave, many of the hotel’s amenities, like two large, ballroom-esque event spaces, forthcoming spa, boutique Warm NY, a full service restaurant offering seasonal fare called Margie’s (named after the Tubridy’s grandmother), and the grab-and-go Greenhouse Cafe are either not yet open, or opened at limited capacity and on the weekends only. On the outdoor pool deck, which is located on the main floor, a large heated tent replete with wooden tables situated six feet apart and oversize blankets was set up by staff for Thanksgiving. Still, the optimism is paramount. “We’re lucky to be able to provide these communal spaces, but we also provide privacy: a chance to be alone, or with one other person,” says Jigarjian, a reminder that even hip hotels can act as escapes from crowds and homes, especially ones that have become our offices, kids’ schools, and gyms.
Like the outdoor terraces, every room has a view, either of the Atlantic Ocean or Jamaica Bay. There are standard rooms and suites as well as eight long-term stays called bungalows; custom made bamboo chairs and rattan beds are topped with crisp white linens by Hill House Home, and flanked by black sconces by Cedar and Moss. Hanging on the teak slatted walls is more art: a picture of a red-headed boy at the beach, a flamingo picking at its feathers, kids in a field eating berries. These photographs and prints were sourced from a variety of nonprofit visual arts organizations and COVID-19 benefit programs, such as Pictures for Elmhurst, a fundraising print sale that dedicated proceeds to medical workers at the hard-hit Elmhurst Hospital Center.
But the most personal piece of art at the Rockaway Hotel isn’t at the Rockaway Hotel at all. It’s across the street, on the playground at Waterside Children’s Studio School, an arts-first public elementary school. A large mural by the installation artist Shantell Martin covers the newly re-sealed blacktop; stick figures and faces swirl around words like “power” and “pop” and “yes you are you.”