By Patrick Donachie
The city Economic Development Corp. and the city’s Department of Small Business Services are touting the January completion of the SBS’s Storefront Improvement Program in Downtown Far Rockaway, which renovated 18 storefronts on business corridors in the area.
The EDC released a new video popularizing the improvements in advance of an upcoming community board vote on the city’s Downtown Far Rockaway Roadmap for Action, which is the de Blasio administration’s second rezoning effort in the city.
The video shows renovations that included new signage and awnings, as well as exterior lighting and paint jobs, door replacements and the preservation of original architectural facets. City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Arverne), who represents the area in the Council, said it was revelatory to see what new storefronts could do for the business corridor.
“It’s a new day in the Rockaways and these changes have already been a huge improvement,” he said. “This may be one of the first changes the Downtown Far Rockaway community can see, but it has made a huge difference so far to lift up the appeal on Mott and Central avenues.”
The SBS offered a 75 percent match of funds for private investment, with a total program investment of $185,000 into the downtown area and $300,000 in private improvements made.
“We are proud to see the completion of this first milestone, which has already pumped new life into business corridors, and is the first of many city investments aimed at revitalizing the neighborhood,” NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett said.
The Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group began in October 2015 led by Richards, and worked with City Hall to find ways to revitalize the area. The group, which included community leaders and other elected officials, decided on a set of goals that included re-establishing Downtown Far Rockaway as a commercial hub and changing the area to a mixed-use district, with additional mixed-income housing.
Mayor Bill de Blasio allocated $91 million towards the project in his 2016 State of the City Address. The potential rezoning would encompass approximately 22 blocks in the area, according to a Draft Environmental Impact Statement released by the EDC, detailing the potential impact of the project. The rezoning could potentially increase the number of residential units by more than 3,000, and increase the availability of retail space by nearly 153,000 square feet.
The rezoning will go before Community Board 14, which includes much of the eastern Rockaway peninsula, for a vote March 29. Additionally, the Queens Borough President, City Planning Commission, the New York City Council and Mayor de Blasio must approve the rezoning plan before it could proceed.
Reach reporter Patrick Donachie by e-mail at pdona