Rockaway’s Paper ‘The Wave’ is Resilient Post-Sandy

Kevin Boyle, editor of the Wave, in front of the paper's Rockaway Beach Boulevard office. (Photo by Rachel Bryson-Brockmann/Voices of NY)

Kevin Boyle, editor of The Wave, has kept residents of the Rockways informed about Hurricane Sandy with attention-grabbing headlines like this one. (Photo by Rachel Bryson-Brockmann/Voices of NY)

After a fire engulfed the Rockaway peninsula in 1892, a local printer published a broadsheet informing residents about the “Wave of Fire” that burned down the community. The name stuck, and since then the The Wave was printed weekly, until another disaster struck the peninsula in 2012: Hurricane Sandy.

“The Wave stopped printing for the first time in more than 100 years,” said Kevin Boyle, the editor. Sandy destroyed The Wave’s archives, subscriber database, and computer equipment. Like many buildings on Rockaway Beach Boulevard and throughout the peninsula, the office was completely destroyed.

“There was no power, and no one could physically get to the office,” said Susan Locke, publisher of the paper. But within four weeks, the staff moved to an empty space above the damaged office, and got back to business as usual. But the hyper-local paper, which relies on ad sales, has not been immune to post-Sandy problems. “When local companies are hurting for money, the first thing they cut is the advertising,” said Boyle.

The Wave, which publishes every Friday and costs 50 cents, has a circulation of about 10,000. The small staff includes Boyle, an associate editor, a part-time reporter, and various freelancers and columnists.

Boyle, 54, who calls himself a self-taught journalist, wasn’t the editor when Sandy hit. The editor from 1994 to 1999, Boyle wrote occasional columns for the paper after he departed. In 2002 he had written a book called “Braving the Waves: Rockaway Rises…And Rises Again,” about the community’s challenges in the aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001 and the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 three months later.

Boyle stopped by the office in December 2012 to see how he could help the staff, and found the editor position vacant. Boyle agreed to step up once again.

“It’s a crucial time in Rockaway’s history,” said Boyle, “It’s an exciting time and it’s important to be a voice.”

And Boyle, a Rockaway resident for 23 years, has given The Wave a strong voice, using front-page editorials with attention-grabbing headlines like “Read This!” to keep residents up-to-date about the recovery efforts and relief aid.

“It’s our job to inform people of important changes, things to look out for, and things to apply for,” said Boyle. Under his direction, The Wave has expanded its social media presence to keep more residents abreast of the issues.

Kevin Boyle, editor of The Wave, calls himself a "cheerleader for the Rockaways."

Kevin Boyle calls himself a “cheerleader for the Rockaways.”

Since last March, Boyle’s main mission has been informing residents about the Biggert-Waters Act, a law passed in July 2012 that permits FEMA to increase flood insurance premiums. For the “Zone A” residents of Rockaway, Broad Channel, and Howard Beach, the yearly cost could be as much as $30,000, said Boyle.

“The Wave was the first to come out with an informative piece about flood insurance,” said Boyle.

In the weeks before a protest against the Biggert-Waters Act in Broad Channel on September 28, Boyle published front-page editorials encouraging residents to attend the “Stop FEMA NOW” rally, calling it their “civic duty.”

“People will be forced out of their homes or foreclosed on,” said Boyle. “It impacts everybody. You don’t want to see your friends and neighbors disappear around you.”

Despite the looming costs of flood insurance, Boyle remains positive about the community that he said is “isolated and overlooked” by the rest of the city.

“I’m sort of a cheerleader for the Rockaways,” said Boyle. “I don’t like kicking a dog when it’s down.”

Boyle, who bikes the two miles to work every day from his home on the border of Belle Harbor and Rockaway Park where he lives with his wife and two children, grew up in Marine Park, Brooklyn. Besides his stints at The Wave, he also owned a bar in Bay Ridge called Brooklyn Dodger and was an academic advisor at CUNY’s Queensborough Community College for six years, where he advised students about their curriculum and career paths.

Boyle said he moved from Brooklyn to Rockaway simply because he wanted better parking, but has grown to love the small-town feeling in the shadow of the big city. A popular summer getaway for New Yorkers for over a century, Rockaway was once known for its large Irish-American population but is now home to middle and working-class people of many ethnicities.

“You walk to the beach past your neighbors,” said Boyle. “You know everyone. You have the same challenges, the same enjoyment. If I was a zillionaire, I’d still live here.”

This story is part of a series of profiles on editors from the community and ethnic press. Read the rest of the profiles here.

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