As a real estate agent that handles a ton of properties in the Rockaways, I am constantly asked this question. The best advice I can give is to come down and walk around the community. If you feel safe, then it's probably safe. If you never even leave your car or the subway station, well, then maybe the neighborhood is not right for you.
The fact is the Rockaways are going through some major changes for the better. Areas are becoming more desirable and while 10 years ago you might of not felt comfortable, today could be a different story.
So come out to the beach and check it out for yourself. Make a day out of it and bring your beach gear.