Our Community; Our Plan

By Councilman Donovan Richards

Originally published at The Wave on January 27, 2017.

It’s a new day in Far Rockaway. The city has invested $91 million to help bring back the eastern end of our peninsula. In the upcoming weeks, we will take an important step forward in our efforts as we enter the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

As your councilmember, I have pledged to work with this administration to ensure that this community is never again the victim of neglect. Over the last 14 months, I have worked closely with the city and the community through public meetings, working group sessions, roundtables, a public scoping meeting and one-on-one briefings to take all of your concerns into account. As I said at the first public meeting back in January at M.S. 53: You’re being heard loud, loud, loud and clear and I think this is the first time in history that I can honestly say that we are.

We need to come together as a united peninsula because we can all agree that we need change. We need a stronger, more resilient commercial corridor with greater retail options, and community facilities that serve everyone. We need to establish the entire Rockaway Peninsula as a place where people can live, work, shop, and enjoy local arts and entertain- ment. These goals are at the heart of the city’s plan, but now we are entering the stage where we as a community must make this our plan.

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to take back the longneglected shopping center on Mott Avenue and use it to catalyze more investment in our community. The plan would strengthen the area with mixed-income housing, commercial, retail, and community space, and finally pump life into our downtown core.

But we do still need to work together to improve this proposal. We need to ensure that healthcare services are prioritized, and that new construction includes green infrastructure and resiliency measures to protect us against another Sandy. We need to ensure that new housing is offered at a range of affordability that will fuel our economy with a mix of incomes. We need to ensure that our strategies make sense for the next generation who need access to better programs, community facilities, and need to be competitive in today’s economy. We need new development to reflect the parking needs of this community.

We need to ensure, first and foremost, that this plan benefits the people who already live in Far Rockaway.

We want Far Rockaway to be a place for our children, our college students and our future young professionals to call home. We also want it to be a place that allows our seniors and families to live comfortably within a neighborhood that serves their needs. We need to bring infrastructure investment and commercial space to make our neighborhood more attractive to new businesses that can create job and workforce development opportunities. Our plan must create new open space and cultural and community facilities. Our plan must bring an end to the age of abandoned land and buildings, as we bring this neighborhood back to its former glory.

This community has called for smart, community-driven investment that will better connect the neighborhood, increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for the people who call this community home. I believe this plan has that potential.

As we are on the verge of entering the city’s public review process, please know that I will be listening to your thoughts and concerns. No proposals go through the public review process without changes. We will continue to have a conversation about what our community needs to bring a revitalization that works for everyone. My office is always open to having a conversation so that I can be a better advocate on your behalf. I hope to hear from you and that you will join me in continuing to advocate for a better downtown Far Rockaway.