EDC Visits The Wave

As posted on The Wave March 24, 2017.

Members of the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) visited the editorial offices of The Wave on Monday, March 20 to discuss the Downtown Far Rockaway Revitalization Project. Photo By Anna Spivak

Three members of the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) visited the editorial offices of The Wave on Monday, March 20 to discuss the Downtown Far Rockaway Revitalization Project — a plan that aims to totally transform and regenerate the working and living communities in the area.

“We wanted to give you a run-through of the project because we feel it is very important and we are proud of the work and want to share it with the public,” said NYCEDC’s Eleni Bourinaris, assistant vice president of government and community relations.

Earlier that Monday, Councilmember Donovan Richards and members of his staff, accompanied the NYCEDC representatives, along with NYCEDC’s new President and CEO, James Patchett, on a walking tour of Downtown Far Rockaway.

The city wants to utilize land use actions to acquire properties that are difficult sites to develop individually and bundle them and sell them, according to Rebecca Gafvert, assistant vice president of development with NYCEDC. Image courtesy of EDC

The comprehensive tour showcased an ongoing investment in the community, a part of NYCEDC’s “Roadmap For Action.” Eighteen small businesses along Far Rock- away’s commercial corridor received storefront and facade renovations through NYC Small Business Service’s (SBS) Storefront Improve- ment Program; a partnership between SBS, NYCEDC, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC and the Rockaway Development and Revitaliz- ation Corporation (RDRC). The program provided an average of $10,000 per business for renovations that included new signage and awnings, open-grill security gates, exterior lighting and painting, door replacement, masonry work and the preservation of architectural details.

Parking is always a problem in Rockaway, and this image from the EDC’s presentation at The Wave, illustrates some possible solutions. Image courtesy of EDC

The improved storefronts, while a sign of tangible pro- gress for the community, are only a puzzle piece in the multifaceted revitalization plan — which includes a rezoning of the downtown area encompassing portions of Mott Avenue, Redfern Avenue, Cornaga Avenue, Beach Channel Drive and Central Avenue; a better connection between the A train and the LIRR; more parking and the addition of mixed-use developments with affordable housing included.

“This plan has been a coordinated effort of all the city agencies with input from nine working groups, four public meetings attended by 100–150 members of the community, four Community Board meetings, meetings with 30 community groups and stakeholders including St. John’s Hospital,” said Bourinaris.

According to NYCEDC, there has been some interest in the project. The first Request for Proposals (RFP) for the project’s Beach 21st Street mixed-use development — a long-term ground lease and development of an approximately 42,500 square- foot-site, “attracted over 100 developers, sub-contractors and suppliers to the Inform- ation Session,” Bourinaris told The Wave.

“In the Urban Renewal Area (which encompasses a vacant lot on Mott Avenue between Redfern and Central avenues) the land use actions are to acquire properties that are difficult sites to develop individually and bundle them and sell them,” said Rebecca Gafvert, assistant vice president of development with NYCEDC. “We are very sensitive to community concerns of density, building heights, permanent affordability of proposed housing and parking.”

Susan Locke, publisher of The Wave, raised concerns about the omission of including a school in the project, specifically mentioning the Arverne by the Sea development citing that, “in their original plans, a school was included, but after 12 years, a school has yet to be built.”

Gafvert answered that “the numbers are not justifying a school now in the plan.”

Sanford Bernstein, The Wave’s general manager, expressed concern about funding for the project and mentioned that the rezoning of the area seems “to be a gift to landowners. For example, land worth $100,000 could be sold for $2 million. Are we to allow speculative profits to be made as we try to make social progress? This could be a problematic by-product. How do we handle that?”

“The city cannot control what private developers do,” Gafvert responded.

As of January 30, the project certified into the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) — a seven-month stretch giving the community board, borough president, city planning commission, the city council and the mayor, ample time to review the plan.

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