As rapid development continues Rockaway’s transformation, a local historian has completed a photographic history of the quainter, quieter times he knew as a boy on the peninsula.
As a full-time security supervisor and father, Emil Lucev Sr., now 74, could only indulge his historical interests as a pastime in the mid-1970s when he started collecting bottles and postcards. But when he met Leon Locke, the late publisher of the peninsula’s newspaper, The Wave, in 1980, he started writing each week about Rockaway history. With access to the newspaper’s voluminous records room, his interest in, and knowledge of, the peninsula’s history only grew.
Lucev soon became a point man for others writing books and articles about Rockaway, prompting Locke to once declare that Rockaway facts only became such after Lucev verified them.
For years, Lucev’s family, friends and colleagues at The Wave urged him to publish a book capturing his knowledge and experiences. His parents moved to Rockaway in 1911 and he lived in communities throughout the peninsula until he moved to Long Island five years ago. The culmination of months of cataloging his archives is “The Rockaways,” part of Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series.
The book, which became available last week, features vintage photographs and postcards of the beaches, hotels, piers and amusement parks that made Rockaway famous. Its 128 pages also include sketches and historical maps, including one of Hog Island, which was completely destroyed in an 1893 hurricane.
In putting together the book, Lucev combed through The Wave’s records, spent countless hours at the Long Island Division of the Queens Library and branch libraries in South Queens. He consulted various historical societies and made regular visits to museums, including the Nassau County Museum and the Museum of the American Indian in Manhattan.
The book is broken down into 10 chapters, each displaying images from different communities along the peninsula’s 11-mile stretch, including Edgemere, Neponsit and Seaside.
Lucev used images that are nearly a century old to capture the unique landmarks of each community, such as St.
Joseph’s hospital in Far Rockaway, the Arverne Hotel and the Belle Harbor Yacht Club.
“Doing the history of Rockaway is a labor of love to me,” he said. Of his book, he added: “I call it the capstone on my pyramid of Rockaway history.”