Building The Roadmap To Downtown Far Rockaway

By Gail Johnson

Originally published at The Wave on September 23, 2016.

Councilman Donovan Richards and the Working Group members listen to Assemblywoman Michele Titus give her remarks at the Roadmap for Action meeting on Sept. 14.

The east end community of Far Rockaway, an area on the precipice of great change, was called to hear and respond to the newly released scoping document, the Roadmap for Action on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at MS 53 located at 1045 Nameoke St. (at Bayport Place).

The oppressive heat of the day gave way to a heavy pounding rain shower which may have kept many community members from the pivotal meeting. The downtown revitalization meetings have been plagued by inclement weather. The January meeting occurred on a bitterly cold and windy night which also affected resident turn out.

The main stakeholder community organizers and organizations were in attendance, but as a community navigates through a very complex set of ideas where eventually compromise and assorted trade-offs will have to happen, more input from the “average” residents will be needed. Input and outreach to the large Hispanic, Russian and Orthodox communities will need to increase as they are an integral part of the community.

Councilman Donovan Richards began the meeting by introducing the working group: Glenn Collins, President of the Redfern Tenants Association; Valerie West, homeowner and vice — president of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC); Greg Miller, Department of City Planning; Kevin Alexander, CEO of RDRC and Dan Brown, representing Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

Richards has been at the forefront of mandating change for the area and with Mayor de Blasio prioritizing the area, change is coming. Richards restated “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” a reminder to a community that has not seen improvements for more than 40 years, “since he was a child.”

Richards said this is a long-term plan for a long-term future with results which will be seen in our lifetimes.

His office, working with the unions and Workforce One, have completed an extensive database of skilled workers. Kenny Carter of Fathers Alive In The Hood (FAITH) hopes that this will “afford more opportunities for workers in the area.”

Carter says in the past “if five were hired and two ‘messed up,’ prospective workers were told we hire from Brooklyn now.”

Residents asked questions and some agreed to have their testimonies videotaped.

Harvey and Phyllis Rudnick were unsatisfied with the answers they received to their questions about parking to accompany affordable housing. They asked searing questions: “Where are the commuters going to park? Some families have more than one car. Where are they to park downtown? How about parking for the police? What about Bayswater, which has no transportation at all? Sure we can walk into town, but who wants to walk back with several packages?”

Daniel Solow, an avid cyclist who videotaped his concerns “…wanted to see more emphasis on bicycle accessibility….” He was excited to hear of plans to connect the A train and LIRR but wanted to encourage Richards to “include bike lanes without the community fearing they will lose parking areas.”

Downtown Far Rockaway was once a thriving beachfront community with an exciting business community that drew shoppers from across the Rockaways, Nassau County and other parts of the city. It’s past time to renew that proud history.

We know that all the suggestions and recommendations won’t happen immediately. When tangible, physical results are seen, the community will feel that the East end is on its way back.

If you were unable to attend this event, the entire plan is available at www.ec.nyc/downtown-far-rockaway, and www.edc.nyc/farrockaway. You may email your questions to farrockawawy@edc.nyc or contact Eleni Bourinaris at 212–312–3896.

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