According to Councilman Donovan Richards, the plan will enable downtown Far Rockaway to reemerge as a commercial hub and livable and walkable destination in the Rockaways.
“This roadmap to action ensures that the people who have remained in the community during the toughest times, will be able to share in the prosperity of this $288 million plan,” Richards said.
The plan calls for the city to acquire the Far Rockaway shopping center, a 150,000-square-foot space, as well as other dormant properties in the area. Plans for the shopping center currently call for 1,700 units of housing, 100 percent of which will be affordable.
Right now, only a few businesses remain in the center, including Thriftway Pharmacy, Dunkin' Donuts, a Capital One Bank branch and Food Dynasty.
The plaza was owned by Rita Stark, who passed away late last year, leaving the property to relatives. She was resistant to the redevelopment of the center and reportedly refused many offers from developers over the years.
Approximately $90 million of the city’s initial $126 million funding of the project will go towards acquiring the properties for development.
Separately $77 million has already been allocated towards street infrastructure and sewer repairs, including two new plazas.
An additional $78 million, according to Richards, will go towards building a new park, upgrading Bayswater Park and improvements to Redfern playground.
“We want to make sure that the residents that live in public housing, as they see new parks come up, that they are invested in as well,” Richards said. “We want them to know that they are part of this plan just like everyone else.”
Officials have also committed to commissioning a study of the viability of extending the NYC Ferry eastward with a stop at Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway. Richards says he expects that study to be done in the fall.
Small Business Services will also expand its reach in the area, including creating a new business incubator in the area.
The plan also includes upgrades to local schools and a proposed school in downtown Far Rockaway.
Jonathan Gaska has been the district manager of Community Board 14 for 28 years and has been calling for investment in the area for decades. He’s happy to finally see Far Rockaway be a part of the city’s plans.
“My office is across the street from this site,” Gaska said. “Every morning at 8 a.m., I park my car and look at this dilapidated, blighted site and think, ‘when will this city do something?’
“This is going to be a wonderful place for people to live and for people to shop,” added. “And more important it will create jobs that we need sorely in the Rockaways.”
Kevin Alexander, CEO of the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation, believes that the improvements are particularly important because it will make Far Rockaway more resilient in an area that’s increasingly vulnerable to climate change.
“Far Rockaway is the only area of the peninsula outside the flood zone,” Alexander said. “It is important that we really invest in Downtown Far Rockaway.”