Jul. 7, 2023 By John Schilling
The Ramones, the famous punk rock band established in Queens in 1974, could find its name enshrined in the Rockaway Beach community, if one local gets his wish.
A new amphitheater opened near the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk between Beach 94th and Beach 95th Street this past spring, sparking suggestions throughout the community about renaming the structure after someone or something significant to the peninsula.
Adam Cardone, a Rockaway Beach local, appeared before Community Board 14 last month to propose the idea of naming the new amphitheater after the Ramones, which was met with applause by a few attendees.
“These guys were the working-class version of musicians. They weren’t fancy rockstars,” Cardone said. “Their stuff is easy to play, it’s accessible, kids learn from their music, but most importantly, they embody New York City and Queens.”
Cardone, a full-time magician and musician, started a petition detailing the proposed naming of the amphitheater as “The Rockaway Beach Ramones Amphitheater” this past May. The petition has since received 1,700 signatures, with a goal of collecting 2,500 on change.org.
For Cardone, the petition is personal. A bass player for a Ramones tribute band named the Rambones, Cardone credits the Ramones’ music for helping him and many others learn how to play their instruments with their strong musical influence.
“I will debate anyone on a collegiate debate team level that the Ramones are literally the most influential rock and roll band to ever live,” Cardone says in his petition. “More people learned how to play music and sing harmonies from listening and playing along to their records than any of the other bands.”
Established in Forest Hills, the Ramones are often credited as “the undisputed grandfathers” of the punk rock music movement. One of the band’s most popular songs, “Rockaway Beach,” reached No. 66 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1978 and has since become a common association with the community.
Written by Dee Dee Ramone, the band’s original bassist, the two-minute song is most commonly recognized by its chorus, a repetition of “Rock rock Rockaway Beach” three times before “We can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach” in a surf punk style.
Cardone’s proposal is not the first time the idea has come up in the Rockaway community. When Rockaway’s new amphitheater was first proposed in 2018, Community Board 14 member John Cori suggested it be named after the Ramones, but that never came to fruition.
When the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation officially opened the amphitheater earlier this year, the idea to name it after the Ramones came up once again in Rockaway Facebook groups, with other name suggestions including the neighborhood’s late Assembly District Leader Lew M. Simon; Rockaways’ Playland, the peninsula’s defunct amusement park; and “Hero’s Plaza” to honor Rockaway’s longtime population of firefighters and police officers.
Cardone’s proposed tribute to the Ramones, however, has gone beyond locals in the community. Peter Coombe of Sage & Coombe Architects, the NYC-based group behind the design of the new amphitheater, thinks it would be a fitting tribute.
“We love the idea,” Coombe told QNS. “And though I’m not originally from New York, the Ramones were an indispensable part of my high school soundtrack in the 1970s.”
The idea has also caught the attention of former Ramones drummer Richie Ramone, who joined the band in 1983 before leaving four years later in 1987. One of the four surviving members of the band, Ramone voiced his support of the idea.
“‘Rockaway Beach’ is a staple in the Ramones catalog. That song is popular all over the world,” Ramone told QNS in a statement. “It’s obvious to me that it should be named after the Ramones. Let’s make this happen!”
In order for “The Rockaway Beach Ramones Amphitheater” to become a reality, however, an official naming proposal needs to be submitted to NYC Parks for consideration. This proposal typically comes in the form of a formal application presented to the NYC Parks commissioner, along with letters of support from elected officials and the community board.
Additionally, NYC Parks prohibits the naming of parks properties after any living person, requiring the individual to have been deceased for at least five years. The Ramones, who disbanded in 1996 and whose original members are no longer alive, meet this criteria.
“Our job at Parks is to keep Rockaway’s greenspaces rockin’ and we appreciate community members sharing their interest in naming the Rockaway Amphitheater for the Ramones,” NYC Parks Senior Press Officer Dan Kastanis told QNS. “We will review all proposals presented to us.”
While it remains unclear how the proposed renaming will ultimately play out, Cardone remains confident. Since speaking before Community Board 14 last month, the petition gained another 100 signatures with people listing their reasons for signing, which include feelings of nostalgia, musical inspiration, and crediting the Ramones for giving Rockaway its “anthem.”
“For me, to name this amphitheater after these guys, it’s very celebratory, it reflects our values of Queens, New York, and I think it’s going to be really fun,” Cardone said. “People seem very excited, and I am, too.”