BY TRONE DOWD
Revitalizing the desolate Downtown Far Rockaway area—which has spent decades as a pipe dream—will soon become a reality.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) and representatives from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration announced on Thursday that the Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project—for which Richards has spent the better part of his political career advocating—was approved by the City Council in a unanimous 46-0 vote.
“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,” Richards said. “These investments will ensure that Far Rockaway benefits from the amenities that so many other communities in our city enjoy.”
The $288 million investment will work to bring new commercial space and small business support, affordable housing options, open space, new connectivity to transit, improved infrastructure and community facilities to the area. The revitalization would also include the first Far Rockaway rezoning since 1961.
For a neighborhood that has faced much hardship in recent years—including divestment from business, unscrupulous developers and the devastation left behind by Hurricane Sandy in 2012—Richards said that the plan symbolizes a new beginning for the community.
Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) said that she was thrilled not only as an elected official, but also as a native of the Rockaways.
“What a great day to be a part of,” Pheffer Amato said. “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. 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 contingency into account.”
The plan will be a combined effort from numerous city agencies, including the Economic Development Corporation and departments of Transportation, Small Business Services and City Planning. The project will also receive funds from the federal government.
Some of the upgrades for the abandoned downtown area include a new park, additional green space, a shuttle to the Beach 108th City Ferry stop and other transit improvements, overhauling an outdated and inadequate sewer structure, service and programs for businesses, investment in affordable housing and luring cultural programs and organizations to the area.
Work on the Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project could start as early as this fall.