CB 14 Convenes Before Summer Break

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It was standing room only at the Knights of Columbus on Tuesday, June 12, as many sought to have their voices heard at the last Community Board 14 meeting before the summer hiatus. From parks and transportation issues to a controversial decision over a proposed synagogue in Far Rockaway, the last meeting was productive, disappointing for some, and long for all.

Before delving into the big issues, the meeting opened with public speaking. A teacher from P.S. 183 spoke about issues at the school including safety concerns, construction and more. Jill Lauri gave a heads up for the 2nd Annual Animal Rock event on July 21, brought up a topic on many minds—the beach closures, and thanked CB 14 for their support in turning down the proposed Williams pipeline. JK Canepa said the pipeline fight is raging on and an anti-pipeline meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. on June 27 at 388 Atlantic Ave. in Brooklyn. In the meantime, there is an opportunity to request that energy company, Equinor, bring an offshore wind lease to Rockaway, as opposed to Long Beach. A public comment period to make this request is open until July 30. For more info, email Canepa at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Some spoke about bringing a new charter school for girls with an extensive STEM program for K-5 in fall 2019. For more information, see ropecharterschoolforgirls.com. Florence Ferguson spoke about Beach 59th Street Playground updates, including a reading series program starting on June 23, with a special guest on August 11, plus paint nights, movie nights and more. A Peninsula Library rep also spoke about some upcoming programming like a Louis Armstrong tribute on June 29 at 6 p.m., a science fair featuring an inflatable boat on July 14, and more.

With beach closures being a big topic, Hank Iori spoke about an important meeting on June 19 at 7 p.m. at P.S. 114, in which elected officials have been invited to speak about the issue. Someone suggested starting a marketing campaign to show Rockaway Beach is open. Visit rockawaybeachisopen.com for more info. Another urged CB 14 not to take a summer hiatus, but rather focus hard on the beach closure issue.

Frustrated neighbors on Beach 90th Street brought up their issue with a neighboring DJ that blasts music into the late-night hours, rattling nearby homes. The neighbors claim that the 100th Precinct hasn’t done enough to stop the disruptions. They turned to CB 14 in the hopes that more will be done.

Following public speaking, Rockaway United gave a presentation on bringing a microgrid to the peninsula, which could help bring backup power in an emergency. They’re now working with NYU’s Urban Infrastructure Institute to make it a reality. They’re looking at an area around Beach 108th to bring the microgrid. NYU is currently in the preliminary phase of conducting a study on the possibility.

The Land Use and Housing committee presentation took center stage with a controversial topic of building a new synagogue in Far Rockaway, but first, a vote was made on a citywide issue of requiring special permits for new hotels in manufacturing, or M1 districts across the city. The citywide text amendment would place restrictions on new hotels in these areas, requiring special permission to build a new one. Many liked the idea so much that they requested this be applied to all hotels, not just ones in M1 districts. A motion was made to support the citywide text amendment, and to see this extended to all hotel construction. The motion was approved.

The hot button issue of the night came down to BSA #2018-65-A-725, or an application to seek a variance to permit the construction of a synagogue near Mobile Street and Reads Lane in Far Rockaway. Dozens filled the room to show their support for the synagogue. Richard Lobel of Lobel, P.C. spoke on behalf of many of the congregants, saying a new synagogue is necessary as the 70 families that make up the congregation, are currently attending services in a trailer on a school property. The location at Mobile Street and Reads Lane was found to be ideal as 100 percent of the congregants live within three-quarters of a mile of this property and 95 percent live within half a mile, which is ideal as those in the Orthodox community must walk to some services. This space would also allow them to have a space of up to 7,000 sq. ft. and have two stories, allowing for 170 people to be on the first floor and 150 on the second, another important factor as men and women pray separately in Orthodox Judaism. CB 14 had previously requested that the interested parties perform outreach and ask permission from neighbors to build the synagogue. The supporters came back saying that of 68 properties within a 400-foot radius, 44 approved of it, three neighboring homes said no, and others chose to abstain from any position, or did not respond at all.

Some who opposed the plan were on hand to give their reasons why, most importantly, parking concerns, issues with the size of the building and safety issues as cars have been known to speed down Mobile Street, which lacks a sidewalk for people to walk on.

After many questions and a lot of back and forth, a motion was made to approve the necessary zoning changes to allow the synagogue to be built, with the condition that the congregation would build a sidewalk on the street. There were murmurs across the room as CB 14 members voted. In the end, 16 voted yes, nine said no, and eight members abstained. Even though there were more in favor than against, the motion did not carry as the supporting vote had to be larger than the combined no’s and abstentions. The room quickly emptied with a sea of disappointed faces.

The Transportation Committee invited the Department of Transportation (DOT) to present some proposed changes to Rockaway Beach and an area around a new senior development in Far Rockaway. DOT hopes to improve traffic flow and safety at Beach Channel Drive and Bay 32nd Street, where the new senior housing building is, by adding improved signage and turning Bay 32nd Street into a two-way street instead of one. The board approved the change in a unanimous vote.

The DOT also presented some changes to the Beach 90s, including a bike lane from the Cross Bay Bridge to Beach 94th Street, pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection of Rockaway Freeway and Beach 95th Street and the addition of a new traffic light at Beach 92nd and Beach Channel Drive. With a few suggested changes, the board unanimously voted in favor of the DOT’s plan. The DOT also announced that a bike share pilot program is coming to Rockaway this summer.

During the Parks Committee presentation, the board voted unanimously to support Charles Jacobs’ request to allow his DredSurfer Grill concession on Beach 17th Street to stay open until 11 p.m., even in the off-season. A request was made for CB 14 to meet with the Parks' Commissioners to discuss the beach closures, but CB 14 said there’s already a City Council meeting to discuss this on June 25 and if the CB 14 Parks Committee wants to hold a meeting, they can. An issue about the boardwalk access ramps in the Beach 60s being closed and worked on right as the season starts, was also mentioned, but this is a necessity that will take about two months to complete. It was also announced that the construction of Sandpiper Playground on Shore Front Parkway will begin soon.

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