BY JON CRONIN
The precursor to Howard Beach was an upscale waterfront hotel and casino, built in 1907, that was meant to lure Manhattanites out to the breezy 2,000 foot pier that is now 98th Street.
The hotel was built by William Howard and called the Victorian Howard Hotel and overlooked Grassy Bay and Jamaica Bay. At the time people were calling the area, ‘little Venice’ because of canals and bays that snaked through the area.
Howard built a boardwalk and 18 bungalows that burnt down in a fire, he rebuilt the area as an at-sea-level neighborhood and called it Ramblersville then later Old Hamilton Beach. The resort’s old casino then became Frank M. Charles Memorial Park.
Today, Howard Beach includes Lindenwood and Hamilton Beach. It is a predominantly white community with some Asian, Hispanic and African-American residents.
It was one of the closest communities to JFK Airport, which borders the town along the eastern part of Hamilton Beach.
Hamilton Beach is accessible through a narrow bridge and a foot path. It floods consistently during high tide. This area was also the one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, with a large population of the community being displaced for several months. Four years later some homes have yet to be completely rebuilt. Updates on flooding and hurricane rebuilding are seen on an almost daily basis in the community. So much so that a satellite office of Build-It-Back, for that express use opened two years ago in the town.
Although the town has seen recent updates to its sewer and drainage system, the community still advocates for better mediation of tidal flow. There is currently a multi-million dollar project run by the Army Corp of Engineers at Spring Creek Park to counter-act the flow of high-tide and storm waters.
One of the biggest events ever to befall the small seaside suburb is the consequences of an attack on three African-American young men by 12 white teenagers in 1986. The three young men went to a local pizza place to ask the use the phone after their car broke down. They were met with racial slurs and chased out of the establishment by the pack of white teenagers. One of the African-American men ran out into Cross Bay Boulevard, hit by a car and died.
Although the town made efforts to educate their youth about a multi-cultural society through the formation of Concerned Citizens for South Queens in 1988, this incident has unfortunately tied the town to racism.