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This Is New York?

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Clockwise from top left, a view of the next phase of construction; the A line; backyards; a model home.  

In the last of the big storms in March, the winds blew roofing off some of the houses at Arverne by the Sea, smashing glass and generally making a mess of the place. The home of Glenn DiResto, a retired NYPD lieutenant and a leader of his homeowners’ association, suffered some of the most severe damage. A few days after the storm, he is out casing the now-sunny streets, talking to his neighbors, mobile phone at his ear, managing a collective response. He is a little agitated—his Tyvek is exposed, his living-room window shattered. But he is still in love with Arverne by the Sea.

“This really is a town that looks like it’s from the Carolinas,” he says.

In many other parts of the city, this Low Country outpost would be seen as an alien intrusion. But this part of the Rockaways has been so thoroughly swept clean of its old forms (grand hotels in the nineteenth century, tiny bungalows in the twentieth) and so thoroughly failed by its new ones (those glowering modern blocks) that anything remotely resembling dignified housing is embraced. DiResto grew up in the old Arverne, in a house on the bay side about four blocks away, where his father still lives. As a true native, he is one of the few residents who move freely between the two worlds, societies as different as their architecture. If there is any resentment toward the new Arverne, he doesn’t feel it. “If not for this development, there would be no revitalization of the area,” he says. “The people that benefit the most may be the people that don’t even live here.”

And with that, DiResto goes back to another of his projects on that post-storm day: helping draft a new Architectural Procedure Booklet with clearer aesthetic guidelines for the neighborhood. No pink houses breaking the beige-and-gray monotony, no lawns overflowing with gnomes. The goal is stasis, to ensure that Arverne by the Sea will always look as pristine and peculiar as it does right now.


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