As Mayor de Blasio announced plans for a resumption of ferry service to the Rockaways, local elected officials and community advocates immediately took up the call for community development projects that they say would go hand-in-hand with a ferry — including a proposal for a new parking lot on the site of an old gas plant.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has asked National Grid President Dean Seavers to review and consider community suggestions for uses of a former manufactured gas plant the utility company owns at the corner of Beach 108th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Among the possible uses of the site, could be for a parking lot for the nearby ferry terminal.
“Rarely do we have the opportunity to redevelop such a large site with so much potential to revitalize the community. The Rockaway Park MGP site is a ‘blank slate’ on which we can write the future economic development of the Rockaway Peninsula,” Goldfeder said. “I urge National Grid to consider the community’s suggestions for the site as we work together to put an end to the cycle of blight and decay that Rockaway families have endured for too long.”
Following Superstorm Sandy, Goldfeder secured an agreement from National Grid to allow hundreds of daily Rockaway Ferry commuters to park at the site for what was temporary ferry service. He and residents of Rockaway who are looking for a restoration of the ferry are hoping that the property can once again be used for parking once ferry service resumes.
De Blasio unveiled his proposal for a citywide ferry service during his State of the City speech on Feb. 3.
“Today, we announce that we’re launching a new citywide ferry service to be open for business in 2017,” he said. “New ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses. … so residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”
Other politicians on the peninsula talked about how important this restoration would be to the local economy.
“Rockaway has great year-round potential, but its major economic strength is its summer season, which is a time when connecting the peninsula with the remainder of the city would maximize the benefit for all individuals within the city limits,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo. “Right now, the peninsula’s only viable transportation option is a water, ferry service.”
Having the large National Grid site as an option for parking now comes into play for ferry riders.
“We appreciate that National Grid made their property available for Rockaway residents to park their vehicles to utilize the ferry service,” said Rockaway Ferry advocate Danny Ruscillo. “Our hope is that when National Grid no longer has a need for this property, they take into consideration the community’s interests, including ferry transportation and parking, when finding the best use for the site.”
The former Rockaway Park Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) occupied the 9-acre lot between Beach Channel Drive and the Rockaway Freeway at Beach 108th Street. From the 1880s until the mid-1950s, the site housed gas production and storage facilities operated by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). In 1998, the ownership of the site transferred to KeySpan in a merger between LILCO and Brooklyn Union Gas Company.
In a 2006 decision, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered KeySpan to begin remedial action to remove toxic waste and contaminated ground soil from the site. National Grid took over cleanup at the site when it bought out KeySpan in 2008 and they are now in their final steps of their efforts.
Goldfeder did not only suggest for the site to be used as a parking lot. He is mainly asking that when National Grid has no more use for the site, they take into consideration what the Rockaway community wants.
“Our families have seen so much destruction in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” he noted.
“Allowing the community to be a large part of the process in determining the future of the MGP site will send a strong message that the community is not only building back stronger but that our residents have a voice for the future.”
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