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Authors of new Broad Channel book get warm reception

Broad Channel residents stood in line at a local watering hole Sunday to pick up a copy of a book penned by a local couple about the neighborhood's history.

Dan and Liz Guarino, the first-time authors of "Broad Channel" — a part of the "Images of America" series by Arcadia Publishing — were busy signing the books for their neighbors at Grassy's for three hours.

The couple said they were approached to write the book by the Broad Channel Historical Association about two years ago. They said it was the first book dedicated to the neighborhood — an island on Jamaica Bay that links Howard Beach to the Rockaways.

"We sort of felt a special obligation to do this the best way we could," Dan Guarino said.

"We both have a very big interest in history," Liz Guarino said. "It's very important."

He said he and his wife prepared to write the book by doing "lots of research and going through histories." It took six months to finish.

"I guess we didn't realize how big a project it would be," he said.

Broad Channel got its name after the city leased the island to the Broad Channel Corporation - a company that sold homes in the neighborhood - in 1915. The construction of Cross Bay Boulevard, the neighborhood's only north-south street, in 1923 caused the neighborhood's popularity to grow. During the Great Depression, speakeasies sprang up in the town because alcohol was easy to smuggle in by ships.

It is known to locals as "The Venice of New York" because of the vast canals in the neighborhood.

The Guarinos lived in the Rockaways before moving to Broad Channel 20 years ago for its natural beauty and close proximity to the water.

"It's serene, it's peaceful, so we moved in," Liz Guarino said.

For three hours, a steady stream of customers entered Grassy's — a bar with a rustic interior featuring an antique Coca-Cola machine and an old-fashioned Texaco gas pump — to purchase the book and get it signed.

"Broad Channel is just an interesting place. It's like not a part of New York City. It's just a real unique place," said Mike Schneider of Richmond Hill. "Books like these are real prizes — about specific places."

State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), whose district covers Broad Channel, showed her support for the book by attending the signing.

"Broad Channel has a community appeal," she said. "It kind of reminds me of the town where I was born," she said, referring to Riverhead, L.I.

Barbara Toborg, the Broad Channel Historical Association president, wrote the book's introduction.

She said she moved to the neighborhood in 1985 because she enjoyed the big city but her husband wanted to live in a small town.

"Broad Channel fits the bill," she said. "I never want to move."

For those unable to attend the signing, "Broad Channel" can be purchased at Wharton's Apothecary at 901 Cross Bay Blvd. or online at barnesandnoble.com and target.com. It can also be taken out of the Broad Channel Library.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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