For more than three decades, the old Far Rockaway Shopping Center, with its iconic blue sign on Mott Avenue, symbolized the lack of investment along the eastern end of the Rockaway Peninsula. But on Thursday, Aug. 4, Mayor Eric Adams joined elected officials and community members to cut the ribbon on a new 224-unit affordable housing development that has replaced the dilapidated shopping area that was built in the 1960s, as well as major infrastructure upgrades that are part of the $234 million Downtown Far Rockaway Revitalization Plan.
The plan was initiated under the de Blasio administration, which spurred a rezoning that prioritized affordable housing and support for area businesses.
“This is the kind of community-led and community-supported investment we want to see more of and a prime example of government working the right way for the people of this city — getting this done ahead of schedule and under budget,” Adams said. “Today is a great day for the Rockaways and another great day of ‘Getting Stuff Done’ for New Yorkers.”
The 100 percent affordable housing project — called Beach 21st — transformed the vacant lot on city-owned land near the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue subway station, delivering on key commitments from the “Downtown Far Rockaway Roadmap for Action,” a comprehensive plan released in 2016 to revitalize the neighborhood and improve the quality of life for local residents.
“Seven years ago, I convened the Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group to develop a $288 million roadmap for this community’s revitalization and reverse decades of deliberate disinvestment,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “I could not be more proud of the life-changing progress we are delivering for the families of this neighborhood in the form of housing, open space, education, and beyond — it truly is a new day for Far Rockaway, where its residents are finally being heard loud and clear.”
The multi-agency effort, led by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), delivered street safety upgrades, new pedestrian space, climate resilience, and flood protection measures to an area that was pummeled nearly a decade ago by Superstorm Sandy.
“The completion of these projects will have a massive impact on the Far Rockaway community for years to come,” said state Senator Joseph Addabbo. “By building more than 200 affordable housing units, this project will benefit hundreds of current residents and has the potential to bring in new people who may not have been able to live in Far Rockaway and become part of this amazing community. The new pedestrian plaza will beautify the area, while the improved storm sewers and climate resiliency measure will better fortify Downtown Far Rockaway against flooding and other issues brought about by climate change.”
Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers applauded the Department of Transportation for completing a $114 million infrastructure project that was completed three months early and $25 million under budget, the NYCEDC and community partners for their commitment to “synergetic community spaces to strengthen the neighborhood, provide vital housing to residents, and construct a stronger, better downtown Far Rockaway.
“Thriving communities need vital open spaces, community spaces, community engagement, affordable housing, and a formidable connection to critical services,” Brooks-Powers said. “The Beach 21st Street mixed-use development has the necessary synergy to assure that our community stays on the trajectory of vibrancy.”
Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson noted The Community Builders for their role in the construction.
“I commend the intentional work of The Community Builders to ensure M/WBE utilization and local partnership are a priority for community development,” Anderson said. “With around 50% of the units designated for Community Board 14, I look forward to seeing material improvements made benefiting the livelihood of the 31st Assembly District.”
Rockaway Development and Revitalization President and CEO Kevin Alexander praised the collaborative efforts of several community stakeholders.
“What continues to inspire my team is the effort The Community Builders, Mega Group, and Building Skills made in getting local residents trained and certified to be employed on the site during the darkest days of the pandemic,” Alexander said.
CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska concurred.
“The old Far Rockaway Shopping Center was an eyesore for over three decades, and the revitalization of this site and the surrounding area has been a board priority for almost 30 years,” Gaska said. “This project will be the economic engine to bring Downtown Far Rockaway back.”