By Bill Parry
The sweeping rezoning project for downtown Far Rockaway sits on Mayor de Blasio’s desk awaiting his signature after the City Council voted unanimously last week to spend $126 million of city funds on a $288 million plan to revitalize a 23 block blighted area. The rest of the funding would from the federal government and private groups.
The project is the product of two years of community meetings and planning and it will be the first rezoning in Far Rockaway since 1961.
“Today we begin the journey of building on the progress we have made over the past four years by infusing hundreds of millions of dollars into infrastructure, quality jobs, parks, streetscape, transit improvements and both community facility and open space,” City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said. “These investments will ensure that Far Rockaway benefits from the amenities that so many other communities in our city enjoy.”
The comprehensive multi-agency plan will bring more than 3,000 residential units, most of them affordable, to city-owned land in the long-neglected neighborhood. The investments will also include a new library branch and eventually the launch of an NYC Ferry route connecting Far Rockaway to 108th Street and the rest of the citywide service.
“What a great day to be a part of. I grew up in Far Rockaway, and I can tell you we’ve needed this kind of structural change to our zoning for the longest time,” state Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) said. “It’s also very much a team success. At the head of that team, Council member Donovan Richards has taken a passionate, patient and inclusive approach to leadership, making real progress by inviting the whole community to the table. The administration has given a gazillion presentations, taken the time to break everything down and incorporated our feedback, which we appreciate. And the folks who stood up and got involved — you made sure revitalization not only happened, but was sustainable, taking every contingent into account.”
The neighborhood revitalization plan includes a $77 million investment by the city for sewer infrastructure improvement, sidewalk expansion and public plazas. The DOT has committed to conducting follow-up traffic studies and making the necessary improvements to the 23-block zone so it can adequately handle new traffic that will be generated by incoming residents to the area.
“DOT is proud to be part of this multi-agency effort to improve infrastructure, transportation and quality of life in the Rockaways,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said. “From new plazas to new Select Bus Service, this great community should see positive transportation changes as soon as this year — and then for years to come.”
The rezoning is part the mayor’s Housing New York Plan, and it is the second neighborhood approved by the City Council after East New York.
“The de Blasio administration is investing big in downtown Far Rockaway,” NYC Economic Development Corporation President and CEO James Patchett said. “After hearing the community’s vision for their neighborhood, city agencies and local elected officials came together to deliver a transformative plan that’s going to drive economic opportunity, create affordable housing, unlock open space, improve infrastructure and make downtown Far Rockaway a better place to live.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr