For most of us, a permanent move from the city to the beach is a dream revived every summer and dispatched once Labor Day has come and gone. But for Claudia Bloom, an editor who also connects businesses in the Far Rockaways with production shoots through her recently launched venture, Rock Locations, it's a new reality that has her pinching herself in wonder. Here's her story, as told to Brick Underground:
I moved here seven months ago, in the beginning of November 2015. I needed a change. I was feeling pretty bored on the Upper East Side after 30-plus years of being married and raising my child and then being divorced and single. I didn’t have any sense of community any longer on the UES once my son was in college.
My professional situation changed, too: I went from full-time at a magazine to a freelance situation two years ago, and I thought, ‘Hmm, okay, something else could change here.’ And my rent kept going up and I decided to leave the area and started to poke around in the Lower East Side, East Village, Brooklyn. I did these walking days. I spent a year when, on nice weekends, I’d explore neighborhoods by foot. I found my favorite neighborhood in Williamsburg, and I thought, ‘There’s energy here, there’s life, I’m going to end up somewhere here,’ but I couldn’t afford the rents.
I felt completely priced out of what I wanted—I needed a two-bedroom so my son could stay with me when he was home; I didn’t want him to have to sleep on the couch—but that felt like a no-go. I really liked my old apartment, but they were renting less and less to families and more to shares, and it was getting very noisy. I was done. But I couldn’t find a two-bedroom I could afford in a neighborhood I wanted. It was time to do something different.
I’d been coming out to the Rockaways to surf for about four or five years now. I started out in Long Beach, but that became expensive with the Long Island Railroad and renting the board, and it was a longer trip than the Rockaways, then I started to come out here every single weekend from May to October, riding the A train every Saturday or Sunday if I wasn’t out of town or raining. I was exhausted but I did it all the time. It was pre-Sandy and it was a city beach but I joined some surf groups and meet-up groups and I met people who introduced me to the spots that were more surf-oriented. They kind of showed me the way. I wasn’t completely sold on it, then Sandy hit, and it destroyed the boardwalk and the place was devastated and kind of torn apart. I started to read about how the surfing community really pitched in and really did a lot of volunteer work and donation work, and started to put a stamp on the community. There was a real turn and I started to poke around again and I kept my eye on it, and then about two or three summers ago, I met some people who owned a surf shop, and they invited me to explore. I wanted to buy a board and they said to come to their shop and test their boards and they really embraced me, and I ended up buying from them. And that part of the Rockaways, around 67th Street called Arverne, really began appealing to me.
I’d made so many friends from the community of surfers, so suddenly when my life changed and I went freelance and I started to look at rents—I didn’t know people lived here full time—and I couldn’t believe what I was finding, that I could actually afford something great right off the beach. So I decided the Rockaways was where I was going to look, especially since I wasn’t going to need to go to the city every single day since the commute was about an hour and a half on the subway. I couldn’t do it every single day, but now I only do so about two weeks a month. And a new development went up [in the area of the Rockaways I liked], and I started to keep an eye on that.
When I first moved full time, the hardest adjustment was not having close friends here. I knew the surf community, but I wasn’t a winter surfer, and I don’t have close friends yet. I sublet from my friend, and it took me a while to set up my house, where I’m moving into now and just signed a one-year lease. But in the winter, there was a little bit of an isolation factor. I was never bored. I had a lot to do to reset my life—new gym, finding a yoga studio—but there is an isolation here [in the cold months]. Winter at the beach is winter at the beach. I don’t have a car—I borrowed a friend’s car when he was out of town for three months—so I was a little stranded. I use my bike a lot, but in the height of winter, it was a little tricky. But I have just been in love with this place...I haven’t had one moment of time, other than when I’m in the city and it’s late and I’m like, ‘Ugh, I have that trip back again.’
The Rockaways remind me of Venice Beach, and I feel a similar energy like Venice. It’s a kind of funky, hip surfer community. There are the projects, and there’s a section of it that’s wealthy. I’m exploring all that for the first time. It’s very diverse, and there’s an element of suburbs, but there’s a city energy here, too. You get off the A train at night and I’m walking with people who’ve come from the city and are walking to the beach! And it’s so reasonable! I joined the brand-new YMCA and it’s two years old and it’s beautiful. I use it all the time. There’s a hip yoga studio and wine bars and tapas bars. There’s a group I’ve become part of that’s bringing new community ideas... It really feels a little bit like Venice. But I feel like I live in a small town, too. I cannot go out my door without people saying ‘hi.’ Everyone says hello. Every store owner has welcomed me to the Rockaways. I’m on my bike and people are waving. In the city, once my son left, I would go out and run my errands and go to the gym and I could spend an entire weekend not speaking to one single person, except maybe someone at the farmer’s market or the gym. Here, it’s constant. People are chatting with everyone.
If you’re considering buying here, you have to love the beach. It can get windy and cold, that beach-y weather, and you have to get used to the commute. There’s always something going on on the A train. I read a lot now on the ride; I’ve gotten used to it. My expenses are definitely less overall, so financially I’m in a better place. And the energy of the ocean and the beach—on challenging, real-life days, I just go for a beach walk or a beach ride, and it really works for me. I love the combination of the beach and the small town, and the proximity to the city. In an hour and a half, I’m in the middle of Columbus Circle, and then I get to run back out to the beach.
I used to rent a house for a week in the summer on Long Beach Island, New Jersey when I was married and then after, and we’d spend the day on the beach and play tennis and have outdoor showers and ride my bike and watch the sunset every night, and I’d think, ‘Why is this only one week every year? Why am I only allowed to be this happy one week a year?’ And now I feel like I did it. I’ve got it. I’ve got it year-round. I can’t even believe I did this. This is the first year I haven’t traveled anywhere—every year I usually take a surf trip—and I didn’t really want to leave this year. Why would I want to leave this beach? I didn’t have the same need to leave as I did living in the city.
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