As the massive $139 million Downtown Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project gets underway, the city’s Department of Small Business Services announced $1.5 million in investments will be awarded to two key nonprofits to revitalize the neighborhood’s commercial district over the course of three years.
The grants will be used to help build the capacity of local organizations, revitalize key commercial corridors and address locally identified needs.
“Creating strong neighborhoods strengthens the city and this investment will help establish economic prosperity for Downtown Far Rockaway,” SBS Commissioner Gregg Bishop said. “These community partners are the lifeblood of their neighborhoods and supporting them means their district can help get its needs met.”
The grant recipients are the Rockaway Development Revitalization Corporation (RDRC) — which was founded to promote the economic and community revitalization of the Rockaways by improving the quality of life for its residents — and the Rockaway East Merchants Association (REMA), which seeks to inform the public about opportunities for growth and creating a safe environment for economic expansion.
“We are excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Downtown Far Rockaway Neighborhood 360 Project,” RDRC President and CEO Kevin Alexander said. “Neighborhood 360 is another example of the city’s commitment to creating vibrant communities across the five boroughs.”
The needs of Downtown Far Rockaway were identified last year through a series of surveys, observations and stakeholder interviews, which can be found here.
“For 15 years, the Rockaway East Merchant Association has been on the ground working directly with the Downtown Far Rockaway business community, serving both as an advocate and mouthpiece for merchant concerns and as an activist to resolve those issues,” REMA Chair Nancy Martinez said. “We are grateful to NYC Department of Small Business Services for investing in our community and helping us expand our support to businesses and commercial districts.
City Councilman Donovan Richards — who advocated for years for the rezoning, which will transform a 25 block area which has not seen large infrastructure investment in decades — applauded the SBS grants.
“This announcement is an important piece of the revitalization of the Rockaways,” Richards said. “This investment will breathe life into our business community and help us strengthen the vibrant small businesses we have. Small businesses are the backbone of any thriving community and I am happy to be a part of strengthening their foundations.”
The project, which began construction in September and is expected to last three years, will support the neighborhood’s current needs and future growth with new streets, sidewalks, open space, utilities and green infrastructure.
“Our borough’s commercial corridors are critical to our economy, so it is great that these two community-based organizations have been awarded Neighborhood 360 grants to help revitalize the commercial corridor in Downtown Rockaway,” Queens Borough President Melinda Katz said. “The $1.5 million in grants awarded will address local needs and help Downtown Far Rockaway maximize its potential as a commercial center.”