Belle Harbor, Queens
Belle Harbor is an upscale neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. It is a tightly knit, upper-middle-class community located on the western half of the Rockaway Peninsula, the southernmost area of the borough. While there are no formal boundaries for the area, Belle Harbor is often used to refer to the area between Beach 126th and Beach 142nd Streets. According to a map from 1909, Belle Harbor is located in the area between Beach 125th (west side) and Beach 141st Streets. The neighborhood is part of Queens Community Board 14.
Belle Harbor is the site of the fatal November 2001 crash of American Airlines Flight 587, which at first virtually everyone thought was another terrorist attack, akin to 9/11.
The opening of passenger railroad service in 1880 to Rockaway Park from Long Island City and from Flatbush Terminal in downtown Brooklyn, via the Long Island Rail Road's Rockaway Beach Branch (now part of subway system), facilitated population growth on the Rockaways Peninsula.
Belle Harbor is a suburban enclave on the Rockaway Peninsula, on a narrow barrier peninsula sandwiched between the Atlantic Ocean to the south and Jamaica Bay to the north. Expansive views of the Manhattan skyline can be seen across the bay. Broad, white sandy beaches have drawn residents to the area. Although the beach is ostensibly open to the public, rigorously enforced street parking restrictions in effect on weekends and holidays from May 15 to September 30, combined with limited direct access to the insular area via public transportation, limits access for non-residents. West of Belle Harbor is the Neponsit neighborhood.
The Crash of Flight 587
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On November 12, 2001, American Airlines Flight 587, bound for Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, crashed in the center of Belle Harbor, killing all 260 passengers and crew on board the plane as well as five people on the ground. Many of the passengers on the plane were from the Dominican community in Washington Heights. After consultation with the families in the Belle Harbor and Washington Heights communities, a memorial was erected at Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park, a major shopping district and transportation hub in the area, accessible to all. Although a temporary memorial was developed at the actual site of the disaster, on Newport Avenue, many still annually gravitate towards that area for commemoration.
Belle Harbor is made up primarily of single-family homes, with a majority of third- and fourth-generation Irish Catholic, middle- and upper-middle-class population. The community also has a substantial Italian-American and Jewish-American population and is home to a large number of New York City police officers and firefighters, both active and retired.
In 2001, a resident stated in The Guardian "It's impossible to understand unless you live here. Father Michael Geraghty, a priest quoted in the same article, said that it was common for people to live in the houses that their parents lived in and that many families lived in the same houses for generations. The neighborhood suffered heavy losses from the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
A commercial center is located on Beach 129th Street. A larger shopping area used by some residents of Belle Harbor is located on Beach 116th Street in the neighborhood of Rockaway Park, which is east of Belle Harbor on the Rockaway Peninsula.
Passenger car access to the area is available via the Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, which provides access to Brooklyn, and the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge, which heads to Broad Channel and mainland Queens.
The A and Rockaway Park Shuttle of the New York City Subway is available at the Rockaway Park–Beach 116th Street station. MTA Bus lines Q22 and Q35 also serve this neighborhood. The QM16 line provides express service between Belle Harbor and Manhattan.
Belle Harbor residents are zoned for schools in the New York City Department of Education.
A middle school, Scholars' Academy, opened on Beach 104th Street. In September 2007, Scholars' added a high school division. Priority will go to continuing 8th graders, but there will be a limited number of seats for students from other schools.
Private schools in Belle Harbor
- Saint Francis De Sales (Roman Catholic)
- West End Temple Nursery School (Jewish)
- Yeshiva of Belle Harbor (Jewish)
- Yeshiva Mercaz Hatorah of Belle Harbor (Jewish)
- ↑ Queens Community Boards, New York City. Accessed September 3, 2007.
- ↑ A Queens Timeline, Queens Tribune, accessed December 14, 2006
- ↑ Yarrow, Andrew L. "Out and About on Memorial Day: How to Find That Sand and Surf", New York Times, May 23, 1986. Accessed October 12, 2007. "Inland, on the blocks between beach and bay, are the well kept neighborhoods of Neponsit and Belle Harbor. If you're coming by car, daytime street parking is prohibited on weekends and holidays from May 15 to Sept. 30 between Beach 117th and Beach 149th Street..."
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 "Plane Crash in Queens." Seconds From Disaster. [documentary TV series]
- ↑ Younge, Gary. "Flight to the death: Just two months after 9/11, the neighborhood suffered the second-worst plane crash in US history. Five years on, residents tell Gary Younge, the cause remains worryingly unresolved", The Guardian, November 11, 2006. Accessed January 24, 2008. "On flight 587, myriad immigrant stories of hope foundered. On board was Hilda Yolanda Mayol, 26, a waitress who had escaped less than two months eariler from the north tower of the World Trade Center and was heading to the Dominican Republic with her mother and children to take her mind off the trauma."