City opens new 35-acre public nature preserve along the Rockaway waterfront in Edgemere

nature preserve
Photo courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

City officials, elected leaders, developers and community members gathered at the location of a formerly vacant illegal dumping ground on Beach 44th Street Wednesday to cut the ribbon at the new 35-acre Arverne East Nature Preserve and Welcome Center along the Rockaway waterfront in Edgemere.

NYC Parks cut the ribbon on the new 35-acre public nature preserve and welcome center on the Rockaway waterfront in Edgemere.Photo courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

The preserve represents phase one of an ambitious Arverne East development project, which will transform more than 100 acres of underutilized space between Beach 32nd Street and Beach 56th Place into 1,650 units of housing — 80% of which will be affordable, serving low-income and middle-income individuals and families — in addition to retail and community space, a hotel and a tap room and brewery.

“The Rockaway renaissance takes another historic step forward,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “What was once a vacant, overgrown illegal dumping ground for decades is now a stunning hub of wildlife and a successful example of what community-centered sustainability looks like. I could not be prouder of this project or of the Arverne East development as a whole, which represents transformational change for a community that had previously been ignored for generations.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards speaks at the unveiling of the public nature preserve and welcome center on the Rockaway waterfront. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

Richards added that future generations would benefit from resources he never had while growing up at the nearby Ocean Villages apartments staring at the blighted oceanfront parcel of land. Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson, who grew up in Far Rockaway, said he looks forward to the completion of the preserve and called the Arverne East development a once-in-a-generation investment.

Assemblymember Khaleel Anderson speaks at the unveiling of the public nature preserve and welcome center on the Rockaway waterfront. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

“The community can have affordable housing and environmental sustainability while enjoying local flora and fauna,” Anderson said. “The welcome center will be a fitting centerpiece of this relationship our neighbors will share with the environment. I hope this model of the first net-zero community in New York City will be an example emulated by others.”

The new nature preserve hosts five different maritime ecosystems, providing a safe home for diverse local animal and plant life. Pedestrian pathways weave through the preserve, offering New Yorkers a new way to observe and appreciate these natural environments, including accessible connections to the Rockaway boardwalk. A new multipurpose building was also constructed as part of this project, which will house a community meeting space, crew headquarters for Parks maintenance staff and a public restroom.

Arverne East’s new multipurpose building. Photo courtesy of NYC Parks/Daniel Avila

“Cutting the ribbon on the Arverne East Nature Preserve is a victory for our community. An area that was once a dumping ground is now home to a beautiful 35-acre natural area and community center where residents can take in the nature of the peninsula,” Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato said. “Thank you to L+M Development Partners for recognizing the need for community space in Rockaway and ensuring this was the first part of the project to be completed.”

Sara Levenson, managing director at L+M Development Partners, called the opening of the nature preserve and welcome center an exciting milestone in the project that will support sustainability, resiliency and health and wellness on the Rockaway Peninsula.

“In line with our commitment to protect and honor the local habitat, the nature preserve will offer visitors a new way to explore and learn about the area’s unique ecosystem while the welcome center will serve as a community anchor, providing important space for park operations and public facilities,” she said.

NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue said that by establishing the Arverne East Nature Preserve, the agency is protecting the natural environment while providing new opportunities for New Yorkers to engage in the rich diversity of plant and animal life that enriches the city.

“As custodians of over 10,000 acres of natural areas across the five boroughs, Parks is committed to maintaining strong, ecologically vibrant public space, helping local wildlife thrive while making our city more beautiful, resilient and livable,” Donoghue said. “Together with the new welcome center, local farm, and native plant nursery, this new nature preserve is a great resource for the Rockaway community.”