Close-Up on Broad Channel, Queens


Portions of this article have been updated.

Next year, some say, they’ll have a pharmacy. Known as “the Venice of New York” and, less glamorously, “the Gateway to the Rockaways,” Broad Channel is a hermetic community of mostly policemen, firemen, and EMS workers on the only inhabited island in Jamaica Bay. At two miles long by two blocks wide, the neighborhood has no supermarket, gas station, or pharmacy, but because of its large coastline there are almost as many boats as people. Canals run behind rows of houses, so that many homes enjoy both a backyard and a dock. Entire families and their dogs rent rowboats, go fishing, and swim together in the canals and the bay. “When it gets warm,” says lifelong resident Dan Mundy, “you’ll see young children wading knee-deep in the bay. Older kids go swimming. By the time they graduate they’re in motorboats.”

Boundaries: The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge to the north, marshland to the east, the narrow Beach Channel separating Broad Channel from the Rockaways to the south, and Jamaica Bay to the west

Transportation: Hidden from view, at the back of a dead-end street, is the Broad Channel subway station, which services the A train and the Rockaway Park Shuttle Line; it can take one and a half hours from the Union Square station during rush hour. A number of other fishing towns, including some in Connecticut, are easier to get to from Manhattan. The Q21 and Q53 buses traverse Cross Bay Boulevard.

Main Drags: The main, and only, drag is Cross Bay Boulevard, the single north-south road. At intersections, one can glimpse patches of the bay one block to the east, and the marshlands one block to the west.

Average Price to Rent: One-bedroom, $900 to $1,100 ($800 to $900); two-bedroom, $1,200 to $1,600 ($1,200 to $1,400); three-bedroom, $1,800 to $3,000 ($1,400 to $1,600)

Average Price to Buy: Most properties are two-story, single-family houses. Prices vary depending on location. A house on the west side with a view of Manhattan goes for $350,000; a house on a canal, $330,000; a house on the east side, $310,000 to $330,000. Only now, says Francine Hamill, the head broker at Century 21 Channel Realty (814 Cross Bay Boulevard), are people moving in from mainland Queens and even Manhattan. Until recently, houses were passed between family members, neighbors, and friends. “It’s an up-and-coming neighborhood,” she says. “Taxes are low and people really want to be here because it’s on the water. The people who buy here are buying a lifestyle.”

Green Space: The 9,000-acre Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge occupies the top, nose-shaped half of the island, and is home to 325 species of birds, including the great blue heron, the glossy ibis, and the redstart warbler. Broad Channel Park (Cross Bay Boulevard between 16th and 18th roads) is an impressively well-appointed collection of tennis, basketball, and handball courts, set off by fern-lined promenades. The much beloved Broad Channel Athletic Club organizes football, soccer, and baseball games on Memorial Field (1st Road and Cross Bay Boulevard).

Cultural Institutions: The Broad Channel branch of the Queens Borough Public Library (16-26 Cross Bay Boulevard) is a rotunda with glass walls and windows on the ceiling that feels like the captain’s cabin on a whaling ship.

Famous Residents: Sewage mogul Charles Howard is a local celebrity, the descendant of a family that has lived prosperously in Broad Channel since the late 19th century. The president of the Call-A-Head portable-toilet company (corporate slogans: “We’re #1 at picking up #2” and “We’re way ahead of what you leave behind”), Howard also owns the Bay-Gull bagel shop (1632A Cross Bay Boulevard) and will soon open the first pharmacy the community’s had in 20 years.

Local Landmarks/Best Bars: Known affectionately as “Grassy’s,” Grassy Point (Cross Bay Boulevard and 18th Road) has long been the favorite watering hole of Broad Channel residents. Baybreeze Marina (2225 Van Brunt St.) is also a favorite offering Monday night karaoke.

Politicians: Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr., Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, State Senator Ada Smith, and Congressman Anthony Weiner—all Democrats

Crime Stats: The 100th Precinct serves Arverne, Belle Harbor, Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Neponsit, Rockaway Park, and Roxbury. As of November 22, 2005, it reported 2 murders, 6 rapes, 60 robberies, 58 felony assaults, and 98 burglaries. (As of June 8, it reported one murder, down one from last year; six rapes, up one; 17 robberies, down seven; 36 burglaries, up 11; and 33 felonious assaults, up eight.)