Streetscaping In Far Rock

By Aryeh Gelfand

Originally published at The Wave on May 13, 2016.

Councilman Donovan Richards and co-chairs of the CB14 Transportation committee Marty Ingram and Danny Ruscillo discuss the transit / bus / rail options for the revitalization of downtown Far Rockaway.

On May 4, representatives with the Department of Transportation (DOT) met with community stakeholders to present plans for the revitalization of downtown Far Rockaway.

The plan, titled the “Downtown Far Rockaway Urban Design and Streetscape Reconstruction,” started with just $1 million in city, state, and federal funding. It has since become a potential $25 to $26 million investment in the Far Rockaway community.

“This plan is really a testament to what the city is investing and looking to do for the Rockaway community,” said New York City Councilman Donovan Richards.

The streetscape project represents the combined effort of six different city agencies to improve the safety, quality of life, and storm resilience of the district.

The area is of extreme importance to city planners because of its status as a transportation hub in the case of the next major storm.

“This is a place for people to go if there is another storm,” said one DOT representative. The area really does need to have the resilience measure in place so people can meet here just as they did during Hurricane Sandy.”

The project, if implemented, would have “shovels in the ground” by September 2017. DOT will also look to plant trees, increase public space, and improve congestion and traffic safety for those utilizing this area.

The project would also feature the construction of a new plaza in front of the Far Rockaway library, which will add an additional 32 feet of public space.

The streetscape also looks to transform a DOT municipal parking lot on Beach 21st Street into a transportation hub by adding an additional 15 feet of curb.

However, the proposal had some community members concerned about a valuable resource in this crowded area: Parking.

“The subject of parking is the underlying problem,” said one exasperated local. “Please reject this whole project until we have a satisfactory answer as to how many parking spaces we need.”

Members of the Queen’s based advocacy group, the Queens Public Transit Committee (QPTC), spoke out against the plan.

“I call DOT, [the] DOG — Department of Gridlock,” said QPTC President Phil McManus. “They want to reduce traffic lanes [but] what does that mean? More gridlock? Why do we go to Five Towns or Beach 116th Street? Because there is more parking.”

CB14 voted to support the proposal during its monthly meeting on May 10, with the caveat that conditional on-street parking be located, including but not limited to muni-meters, along Beach 19th Street and from Smith Place to Foam Place.