Transitions

From Astoria to Rockaway Beach: Leaving a raucous social life for the peace of the ocean

"If too many hipsters move out to Rockaway for the surf, and it becomes too crowded, maybe I will have to find my next reprieve from the city. But for now, all is good," says Dana, a California native who has lived in several Queens neighborhoods.

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A California native, Dana moved to Astoria and found a boisterous, social scene. She loved the area’s diversity, but eventually she desired a quieter, healthier lifestyle, so she moved to the tight-knit community of Rockaway Beach, where she can see the ocean right from her bed. Here’s Dana’s story.

I moved to NYC in the fall of 2008. After a short stint in a furnished room in Flatbush, Brooklyn, I realized it was not for me. Then I found Astoria! I met a great real estate agent who really highlighted the neighborhood’s charms. She made me fall in love with it and helped me find my first rental apartment in Queens.  

I liked that the neighborhood had transportation and my building, in particular, was close to the R train. My commute into the city was just 20 minutes. I also loved that I was so close to LaGuardia airport and cab rides to nearby areas were inexpensive.


[Editor's Note: Brick Underground's series “Transitions” features first-person accounts of what it’s like to move from one New York City neighborhood to another. Have a story to share? Drop us an email. We respect all requests for anonymity.]


I lived near the corner of Steinway Street and Broadway, which, while historically Greek, had tons of diversity. I really enjoyed this. I soon learned Queens is one of the most diverse places in the world.

My love for the area grew because it had so many cool things: gyms, great bars, hookah lounges and multi-cultural grocery stores. The local bodegas would deliver beer right to my apartment in the winter—so handy! There is a Bulgarian bar named Déjà Vu, which has live violin music with a DJ on Thursday nights and it quickly became my favorite dancing spot.

It was easy to be social and meet new people in Astoria. Not only did I often chat over tea with a lovely older neighbor downstairs from me, but I also joined a group training for the New York City Triathlon and met some locals in the hood who wanted to run, swim, and bike together.

I always felt safe in the area and the subway was well populated, even late at night—so much so you couldn’t get a seat.

That was one of the frustrating things about the area—it could be crowded. Over time it became the biggest thing that I didn’t like about the neighborhood.

About four years later, in 2012, I moved to Boulevard Gardens. It was just a few minutes away and very similar to Astoria. I still had access to 24/7 grocery shopping and social activities. I became close friends with some neighbors in this new area and we had fun going on long walks and checking out the local breweries, including one of my favorites: The Brewery. We would also hang out at the local pub for wing and steak nights.

Still, both areas of Queens were essentially the same: Busy and fast paced. I longed for something different.

Last year I made a major transition: I moved to Rockaway Beach. As I progressed from my 20s to my 30s, I started prioritizing health and mindfulness over socializing. I became vegetarian (again) and got hooked on hot yoga. I found Hot Yoga Rockaway Beach on 116th Street—just a four-minute walk from my house, and this has become a daily ritual for me.

I eagerly embraced my new life: Same great borough, but vastly different vibe!

In Rockaway Beach, I found that my heart rate slowed down. I could visit the Buddhist center for free evening meditations or just go for a solo beach walk or bike ride on Riis Beach. This new neighborhood had way more access to nature than the Astoria/Woodside area. One of my favorite aspects of living here is waking at sunrise and seeing the ocean from my bed

While grocery shopping isn’t as diverse as in Astoria, I can walk to an indoor farmer’s market and get lots of fresh fruits and vegetables year-round. There is a quieter social scene and less of a late-night atmosphere in most parts of the area.

Although further away from the city and a bit farther out, I actually enjoy taking the ferry to Manhattan. And even if I go deal with the hustle and bustle of the Manhattan, I get to come home to a type of serenity I didn’t have in Astoria. I can still get away easily as well: JFK is very close to where I live.

Despite having a bit less of a social scene, I have found a small and tight-knit community. There is “Ladies of Business Rockaway Beach,”  a networking and support group for female-owned businesses, such as Spa Rockaway, a local wellness spa offering massages and acupuncture where I recently took several Reiki classes. 

I definitely still appreciate Astoria, but I don't plan on leaving Rockaway anytime soon. I think this is just the beginning for this really cool, eclectic beach community. Because of the stress of Hurricane Sandy, the residents here have really bonded. They have been through a lot together and everyone watches out for each other. It’s something unique and special of which I am thrilled to be a part.

As Astoria became busier and busier it became less interesting to me. Perhaps the same will happen in Rockaway. If too many hipsters move out to Rockaway for the surf, and it becomes too crowded, maybe I will have to find my next reprieve from the city. But for now, all is good.