The name "Rockaway" may have meant "place of sands" in the Munsee language of the Native American Lenape who occupied this area at the time of European encounter during colonization. Other spellings include Requarkie, Rechouwakie, Rechaweygh, Rechquaakie and Reckowacky, transliterated in Dutch and English by early colonists.[note 1]
Rockaway was, back then, inhabited by Canarsie Indians, a band of Mohegan, whose name was associated with the geography. The name Reckowacky, which is also spelled Requarkie, Rechouwakie, Rechaweygh, or Rechquaakie,[note 1] was to distinguish the Rockaway village from other Mohegan villages; "Reckowacky" means "lonely place", or "place of waters bright". (This area was mistakenly documented as occupied by a band of Mohawk people in a 1934 source, but this Iroquoian-speaking tribe primarily occupied the Mohawk River valley in central New York, north and west of the Hudson River and Long Island.) By 1639, the Mohegan tribe sold most of the Rockaways to the Dutch West India Company.
In 1664, the English defeated the Dutch colony and took over their lands in present-day New York.[note 2] In 1685, the band chief, Tackapoucha, and the English governor of the province agreed to sell the Rockaways to a Captain Palmer for 31 pounds sterling.
The Rockaway Peninsula was originally designated as part of the Town of Hempstead, then a part of Queens County. Palmer and the Town of Hempstead disputed over who owned Rockaway, so in 1687 he sold the land to Richard Cornell, an iron master from Flushing. Cornell and his family lived on a homestead on what is now Central Avenue, near the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. At his death, Cornell was buried in a small family cemetery, Cornell Cemetery. Today it is the only designated New York City landmark in the Rockaways.
In the late 19th century, the Rockaway Association wanted to build a hotel on the Rockaway peninsula, as it was increasingly popular as a summer destination. The association, consisting of many wealthy members who had homes in the area, bought most of Cornell's old homestead property. They developed the Marine Hotel on that site, which attracted such guests as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Washington Irving, and the Vanderbilt family. The Rockaway Association also built the Rockaway Turnpike. The Marine Hotel burned to the ground in 1864, but more hotels and private residences were built in the area.
In the 19th century, people traveled to the Rockaways by horse-drawn carriages or on horseback. A ferry powered by steam sailed from Lower Manhattan to Brooklyn. By the 1880s, the Long Island Rail Road's Rockaway Beach Branch was built to serve Far Rockaway station. The steam railroad went to Long Island City and Flatbush Terminal (now Atlantic Terminal). When it opened in the 1880s, this connection stimulated population growth on the Rockaway Peninsula. Benjamin Mott gave the LIRR 7 acres (2.8 ha) of land for a railroad depot. Land values increased and businesses in the area grew, and by 1888, Far Rockaway was a relatively large village. It incorporated as a village on September 19 of that year.
By 1898, the area was incorporated into the Greater City of New York, which included Queens. Far Rockaway, Hammels, and Arverne, all of Queens, tried to secede from the city several times. In 1915 and 1917, a bill approving the secession passed in the legislature but was vetoed by the New York City mayor John Purroy Mitchel.
Based on data from the 2010 United States Census, the population of Far Rockaway was 50,058, a change of 1,714 (3.4%) from the 48,344 counted in 2000. Covering an area of 1,251 acres (506 ha), the neighborhood had a population density of 40 inhabitants per acre (26,000/sq mi; 9,900/km2).
With its nearby beach, Far Rockaway attracted tourists and vacationers from the other boroughs. Bungalows were the homes of choice for many residents who lived in Far Rockaway. The railroad abandoned the Rockaway Beach Branch in 1950 because of the shift of many people to driving private cars. In addition, this destination had to compete with the many others that people were visiting by car and air travel, which created access to even more distant destinations and heightened competition for travel dollars.
As the neighborhood's heyday as a resort community declined in the 1950s, the city built substantial numbers of public housing developments to try to replace substandard housing after World War II. Bungalows and other residential housing were converted to year-round use for low-income residents. Some bungalows were used as public housing. The 1970s New York City budget crisis resulted in a negative effect on the provision of social services, and problems of poverty, unemployment and drug use increased in this area.
In September 1984, residents founded the Beachside Bungalow Preservation Association to "improve the quality of the Far Rockaway community through preservation, education, and cultural programs." " The organization donated a collection of materials highlighting its history, correspondence, and activities to the Queens Library Archives in 2008.
Far Rockaway is patrolled by the NYPD's 101st Precinct, located at 16-12 Mott Avenue. The 101st Precinct and the adjoining 100th Precinct, which serves the rest of the Rockaways, collectively ranked 10th safest out of 69 patrol areas for per-capita crime in 2010. However, the low-income and densely populated 101st Precinct has significantly more crime than the 100th Precinct, which is high-income and more insular.
The 101st Precinct has a lower crime rate than in the 1990s, with crimes across all categories having decreased by 74.6% between 1990 and 2018. The precinct saw 6 murders, 26 rapes, 151 robberies, 301 felony assaults, 98 burglaries, 250 grand larcenies, and 31 grand larcenies auto in 2018.
Far Rockaway residents are zoned to M.S. 53 Brian Piccolo.
All New York City residents who wish to attend a public high school must apply to high schools. Far Rockaway High School was located in Far Rockaway, but was shut down in 2011 as a stand-alone institution. During the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2011, many large, underperforming, older traditional high schools were closed in the city. The 1929 building was renovated to operate as the Far Rockaway Educational Campus, home to a number of smaller, specialized academies that share the building. They can provide more individualized attention to their students. The former Beach Channel High School was similarly closed in 2014 and repurposed to house several smaller, specialized academies; it is in Rockaway Park, near Far Rockaway, and draws some of its students from Far Rockaway.
Challenge Preparatory Charter School on Hartman Lane is publicly funded and run by a private non-profit entity; it serves elementary and middle-school pupils.
Queens Public Library operates the Far Rockaway branch at a temporary location at 1003 Beach 20th Street. The library was formerly located at Central Avenue. In 2013 New York magazine reported that the city planned to construct a public library in the neighborhood, to be designed by the internationally known architectural firm Snøhetta. Construction started in November 2018.
During the early and mid-20th century, many Jewish immigrants and their working-class descendants settled in Far Rockaway, sometimes first as summer visitors. They founded numerous synagogues and private schools, including those devoted to all boys or all girls institutions for educating Orthodox children. Following World War II, as residential housing was developed in Nassau and later Suffolk counties, many Jewish families left the Rockaways for newer housing. Far Rockaway had "flourished in the 1940s but withered .. 1960s" until "a few Jewish families .. started the Hebrew Free Loan Society for new home buyers."
The Far Rockaway terminal station for the Long Island Rail Road's Far Rockaway Branch. The branch had been part of a loop with service along the existing route, continuing through the Rockaway Peninsula and crossing on a trestle across Jamaica Bay through Queens, where it reconnected with other branches. Frequent fires and maintenance problems led the LIRR to abandon the Queens portion of the route. The city acquired this to develop the IND Rockaway Line.
^Costello, Brian. "Jets land Far Rockaway native in sixth round", New York Post, April 28, 2018. Accessed October 9, 2018. "Gang Green picked defensive lineman Folorunso “Foley” Fatukasi in the sixth round, the 180th-overall pick. Fatukasi grew up in Far Rockaway and played at Beach Channel High School."
^Jackson, Brian Keith (October 24, 2007). "Ice, Ice Babies". NYMag.com. Retrieved November 25, 2015. I grew up in Far Rockaway, and you’d always see shoes on the line.
^"Smullyan biography". University of St Andrews School of Mathematical and Computational Sciences. Retrieved November 25, 2015. Raymond Smullyan, known as Ray, was brought up in Far Rockaway in New York City.