Queens Community District 14 – the Rockaways and Broad Channel – contains Breezy Point, one of New York City’s most insular and remote communities.
Located 22 miles by car from Lower Manhattan and divided from the rest of the Rockaway Peninsula by the Gateway National Recreation Area, Breezy Point has been a private coop since 1960.
Today Breezy is one of the whitest areas in New York, and, as of the last Census, it was the most heavily Irish zip code in America. 60.3% of the 4,337 year-round residents are of Irish decent. The rest are mostly Italians, who congregate along a strip known as “Lasagna Lane.”
My friend Josh and I went down this weekend to see if we could get into an Irish Rebel show at a locals-only bar, the Sugar Bowl. We took the A train, to a shuttle, to Rockaway Park, where we got a car service to take us the rest of the way. The trip took two and a half hours.
Breezy has its own security service, and a security gate at the community entrance. The woman at the gate let us pass, on the condition that the cab let us off at the end of the block, and not leave her sight. She warned us not to cause trouble or take pictures.
We got into the show fine, but no one spoke to us for a while. Everyone knew each other. The place was packed, mostly with firefighters and their families. We had to take pictures discreetly.
After the show I interviewed the musician, Derek Warfield, a founder of the Wolfe Tones, a popular Irish folk group with a big following in Irish-American communities. Eventually I got his sound man, a local named Finbar, to talk to me about Breezy. He was the only local who would.
He called Breezy a “gem that wants to remain unblemished,” and justified the security presence by telling the story of an outsider (“Puerto Rican or something”) who came down and caused trouble. “Here, you cause a problem, you’re out.”
Before we left, the owner, who saw that we were friendly with the band, came over and told us we were welcome back any time. He gave us both pints of Guinness, but wouldn’t give me his real name, answer any questions, or let me take more than one picture.