FR Working Group Open House

By Aryeh Gelfand

Originally published at The Wave on May 20, 2016.

The Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group is made up of elected officials, community representatives and stakeholders. Photo By Aryeh Gelfand

Councilman Donovan Richards, hosted a Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group open house on May 12, hosting members of the community to learn about the efforts of ongoing work being done to revitalize the east end’s business district.

The Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group is made up of elected officials, community representatives and stakeholders.

Since convening in November of 2015, the group has come up with five recommendations for the direction of future investment in Downtown Far Rockaway.

They are:

1. Re-establish Downtown Far Rockaway as the commercial and transportation hub of the Rockaway Peninsula.

2. Reposition the area as a mixed use district, including mixed use housing.

3. Reactivate the public realm with new connections and open space.

4. Improve the quality of life for residents through access to community services, education, and quality jobs.

5. Build the capacity of community organizations and support local businesses.

“This could not have been done without the community and I want to thank the Mayor and city agencies for listening to the needs of the community,” said Richards.

The open house gave each city organization involved in the project the opportunity to showcase their aspect of the project and listen to comments and criticism from members of the community at large.

Representatives from The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) outlined the city’s plan for improvements to the Redfern Houses. Plans call for improvements to areas damaged by Sandy and increased resiliency efforts in preparation for the next big storm.

As part of the federal requirements on the project, 15 percent of the workforce on these projects must come from residents of the housing developments themselves. This represents a significant investment in the community and the low income residents of these housing projects.

Another crucial initiative that is part of this plan, says Richards, is the Downtown Far Rockaway Storefront Improvement Project.

“We are investing in storefront improvement to help businesses and property owners rehab their facades and improve the aesthetics of the commercial district here in Far Rockaway,” said Blaise Becker a representative from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The Downtown Far Rockaway store improvement program is the combined effort of three city agencies, including the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). The plan will allocate $185,000 to small businesses in the Downtown Far Rockaway area who qualify. 21 locations have been selected and construction will begin later this summer.

Representatives of the Department of Transportation (DOT) were in attendance to present their agency’s part in the project.

“You have to create a destination where people will want to come to,” said a DOT representative.

The DOT has been tasked with creating a plan that will transform the downtown area into a thriving commercial and transportation hub. The plan calls for the creation of added public space and tree beds lining the avenues. Their thinking is that a more beautiful space and more parks will bring in customers and bring economic stimulus to the district.