Richards, EDC Host Workshop

By Miriam Rosenberg

Originally published at The Wave on January 22, 2016.

Councilman Donovan Richards and members of the working group.

It was one of the coldest nights of the year, but residents of Far Rockaway, Edgemere, and Bayswater turned out in large numbers to make their opinions known on the future of downtown Far Rockaway.

Tuesday night’s meeting with the city’s Economic Development Corporation at MS 53 followed up on meetings that Councilman Donovan Richards has had with a working group of stakeholders in the community since late last year.

The anticipated outcome of all these meetings is a community-driven plan to be submitted to the mayor by February.

“We’ve had a working group for the past two months to really come up with some basic concepts,” Richards said. “What we think Far Rockaway can be, what are the things the city can move on immediately, [and] what are some of the things we can think of in the longterm. So tonight is really about hearing from the public about what their vision is and then incorporating a lot of the feedback into our plan.”

A packed house as residents comes out to help decide the future of Mott Avenue.

One member of the working group is Glenn Collins of Redfern. He’s concerned with places for young people to go, lighting, and parking. He also talked about the Far Rockaway Shopping Center/Thriftway Mall.

“We all want to know how fast it is going to transpire because we are all affected by that,” Collins said. He added, “We would love to know how fast we could move on that project.”

Those who attended the meeting were divided into 10 groups to come up with recommendations for the project. When Linda Plummer, who is the board chair for the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, got up to give her group’s ideas she said, “It appears we’re all on the same track.”

Some of the many ideas coming out of the meeting.

Topping that track was parking, parking and more parking. Other ideas included wider streets, a movie theater, and better transportation. There was concern about quality of life issues such as homelessness. There were calls for higher quality of businesses in the area and a connection between the A train and the LIRR, which would bring in more people to spend money.

The many vacant lots in the area could be used for housing, groups also said.

Standing next to Richards, as members of the 10 groups started to present their ideas, The Wave overheard the councilman say, “They’re coming back with everything the working group [recommended].”

It was something, he said, that did not really surprise him.

“This was a working group comprised of community members, so it is not an accident that many of the things were repetitive,” Richards said after the meeting. “But it shows that everybody already knows… . Look, we’ve been having the same conversation for 30 or 40 years. So while I am interested in conversation, now it is a job to make sure we move this forward.”

Work downtown has already begun to move forward. The Beach 20th Street Plaza opened in December. Also ground is expected to be broken on the new Far Rockaway Library this year, and Richards said infrastructure work in the area should begin next year.

Earlier this week the mayor announced that Mott Avenue would be part of a $115 million program for capital investment as part of the city’s Vision Zero initiative.