By Peter McDermott
After five years in the making – filming, editing, thinking, researching and fundraising – “The Bungalows of Rockaway” will get its premiere on Thirteen (WNET) tomorrow night.
Director Jennifer Callahan originally conceived it as a 15-minute short, but ultimately decided on a full-length feature. “It deserved the context, and it had to be entertaining, artful and substantive,” she said.
The context was that Rockaway became in the early 20th century a “working-class paradise” for those escaping the summer heat of Manhattan’s tenements. By the middle decades, Jewish and Irish-American families were occupying more than 7,000 bungalows on the Queens peninsula in the hot months.
For the director, the story was irresistible. “It’s such a different slice of New York,” she said. “The bungalows are so sturdy and light-hearted and so adorable and pretty and unusual.”
Callahan and her producer Elizabeth Logan Harris did a full count of the bungalows recently and found that 378 are being used as family homes in Rockaway (excluding Breezy Point, a gated community that refused them access).
Denis and Susan O’Hanlon are among those who still live there. Former vacationers Bob Connelly, Ed Dunne, Jennie Andrews, Lawrence Quinn, his daughter City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and AFL-CIO president John Sweeney also help tell the Irish side of the story.
“With the Irish [in the film], the men are such great story-tellers,” Callahan said. And if some great material got left out, it will likely make it to the DVD.
The film airs tomorrow, Sept. 16, at 8 p.m, on Thirteen (WNET) and again on Wednesday, Sept. 22, at 7 p.m., on WLIW – Channel 21.
[PHOTO IS OF MARY DUNNE WITH THREE OF HER CHILDREN IN ROCKAWAY IN THE 1950S]