Is Opening a Hotel in Rockaway Beach Right Now a Good Idea?



On a recent Thursday morning, the staff at the Rockaway Hotel was busy installing sanitation stations, arranging lounge chairs six feet apart and practicing contactless check-ins. Scheduled to open Labor Day weekend, the upscale property sits just two blocks from the Atlantic Ocean in Queens.

“We don’t have time to complain or say this pandemic stinks,” said Jon Krasner, one of the developers involved in the venture. “We have to go with the flow, figure it out and invent a new normal.”

Many people would consider opening a hotel in Rockaway Beach right now to be a huge gamble, considering the time of year, the recent history of failed hotels in the neighborhood and their general plight across the city.

But tell that to Randi Savron, a retired teacher and local who has been desperately trying to book her 60th birthday party at the Rockaway Hotel for next May.

“I’ve been on the phone with them every day trying to find a date that is open,” she said. “The hotel is already booked for communions, bar mitzvahs. My girlfriend is going to a wedding there on New Year’s Eve.”

This Queens neighborhood should not be starved for idyllic places to stay and socialize. It has a stunning coastline and vibrant art, music and food scenes. It is less than 20 miles from Manhattan. Last summer, according to NYC Parks, more than four million people visited.

The hotel plans to hold programming year round, inside and out in order to draw business in every season and despite the pandemic.

He is not alone. Ms. Savron, who helps run the Facebook group Friends of Rockaway Beach, said some of its 30,000 members had voiced skepticism about the new hotel. “You have the die-hards who have lived here their entire lives, but they don’t want to see hipsters or yuppies,” she said. “They call them every name in the book.”

“When I see their Instagram ads pop up, it’s my girlfriends from the neighborhood who are modeling for them,” Ms. Trogdon said of the hotel. “I know all of them, they aren’t hired models. That is very cool and very funny.”

The hotel may have a homegrown feel and image, but it is unmistakably upscale: Rooms can go up to $900 a night during high season. Neighborhood leaders are hoping that guests with thick wallets will also pour money into the local economy.

“Rockaway has gotten a lot of press in the last few years, especially after Sandy, but it’s still a place waiting to be discovered,” said Alex Zablocki, the executive director of the Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy, which helps preserve 10,000 acres of parkland, including Rockaway Beach, Fort Tilden and Jacob Riis Park.

“For us as a nonprofit it’s important to bring in new people who might want to be stewards of these places and to raise funds that are needed,” he said. Mr. Zablocki has been working with the hotel to plan activities for its guests and employees alike, from beach cleanups to adventure kayaking tours.

Other locals are just excited to have a new place to socialize.

“We have a small amount of places where we hang out, especially in the winter,” Ms. Trogdon said. “There is one thing that is going on a Friday night, and everyone is there.”

Ms. Savron, besides wanting to throw her birthday party at the hotel, plans on going there for a staycation soon.

“My wife, Kim, she said, ‘We live close by, and we have a beachfront condo. Why would we stay at the hotel?’” she said. “I told her, ‘We are going to go because we can, because it’s gorgeous, and because we want to show support.’”



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