Perhaps I am dating myself…BUT…When I was just a kid growing up in the Rockaways, my mother and I would board the Long Island Railroad every Saturday for an hour trip into Manhattan for ballet classes and for Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s concerts at Carnegie Hall.
The closest thing we had to culture was the Friday night PAL (Police Athletic League) dances and three movie theaters, all of which are long gone. Central Avenue, as we knew it, is now a ghost village.
If could go back there, I would build an art center like the one they have on Fifth Avenue in Pelham where restaurants thrive next door to arts classes and exhibitions. Or, maybe I’d buy the old RKO Strand and turn it into an art cinema like Jacob Burns with films, lectures and personal appearances of people who make the movies. Perhaps the old Pix Theater could be a music hall like the one they have in Tarrytown or like the Paramount in Peekskill.
Or, I could consider how the old Saint Joseph’s Hospital might have survived as an Eric Larabee Barnes designed museum like the Katonah Museum of Art. Alas, there are no museums in the Rockaways. There aren’t any hospitals either.
Actually, the old Chase Manhattan Bank there is a dead ringer for the one ArtsWestchester turned into a gallery on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains. I think about it often. If only I knew then what I know now, I might have saved Far Rockaway.
While it may be too late for the Rockaways, the arts have done wonders for life in Westchester.
Read about the immense impact the arts have had on the county here: www.artswestchester.org/2011-study-underscores-importance-of-the-arts-to-westchesters-economy/18823, and write to your elected officials to urge them to support the arts here: www.artswestchester.org/get-involved/save-the-arts/county-legislature