Rezoning Proposed In Far Rockaway

By Daniel Offner

Originally published at The Wave on December 16, 2016.

Map of the proposed zoning changes for Far Rockaway.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) is looking to rezone a portion of Far Rockaway, as part of Mayor de Blasio’s $91 million commitment to revitalize the downtown business district.

A land use proposal will be presented to members of Community Board 14 in January, to determine if it will adopt the zoning required for the mixed-use development of two city-owned parcel properties, after which, CB14 will have 60 days to decide whether or not the specifications meet the desire of community stakeholders.

NYCEDC representative Ryan Birchmeier told The Wave, on Wednesday, that NYCEDC along with the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), have just released the first of several Request For Proposals (RFP) to seek a ground lease and developer for one of two city-owned parcels in the project area.

“The release of this RFP reaffirms the city’s commitment to downtown Far Rockaway, and to re-establish it as a mixed-use village,” NYCEDC President Maria Torres-Springer told DNAInfo.

More than nine months of work with the community went into the plans, which according to the Environmental Assessment Statement released by NYCEDC in August, aims to include development of 3,027 dwelling units; 152,935 sq. ft. of commercial space; an 86,947 sq. ft. community facility and a public plaza at Mott Avenue, between Redfern and Central avenues.

However, at the December meeting of Community Board 14, residents spoke about concerns surrounding the density, size of the structure, and the number of parking spaces.

“One of the things they’re proposing is upzoning [downtown Far Rockaway] into an R6 zone,” said Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14.

According to R6 zoning requirements, any residential development would need to include parking for 50-to-70 percent of all units.

“Clearly, 50 percent is wholly inadequate,” Gaska said. “It doesn’t make any sense. The goal is to bring people with jobs here… where are they going to park?”

Gaska said that unlike Beach 116th Street, where 80 percent of the parking is provided for residents, the downtown Far Rockaway plan proposes the opposite.

“The plan asks for less than zoning requires, where we should be asking for more,” Gaska added.

In response to public concern surrounding parking, Birchmeier said NYCEDC expects to see a net increase to the overall parking in downtown Far Rockaway.

City Councilman Donovan Richards — who has been leading the charge for redevelopment since 2015 — also stated that he plans to advocate for mixed-use development to include units at 30 percent of $41,593, or the Area Median Income (AMI).

Currently, the Community Board requires residential development at 60 percent AMI.

“After all of these meetings with NYCEDC, they never asked if we need all this housing,” said Betty Leon, a CB14 board member. “It makes me feel claustrophobic.”

Although the NYCEDC has released renderings of the project site, the exact number of units for people earning 30 percent of the AMI was not available as of press time.

“High story housing is not going to make anyone want to move in,” said Gerald Davis, a CB14 member. “This is not redoing the shopping center.”

Davis explained that when the project began, it was with the intent of revitalizing and reactivating long-vacant sites, to increase housing and retail opportunities.

The deadline to bid on the 42,500 sq. ft. site, located along Beach 21st Street, is March 14, 2017.