ABTS Residents In Limbo With HPD Over Traffic Safety

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At first glance, Beach Front Road, which runs parallel to the boardwalk adjacent to Arverne By The Sea’s (ABTS) beachfront developments, seems peaceful, in a world of its own. However, according to neighboring ABTS residents, from Beach 60th to Beach 67th Streets, due to speeding cars and absolutely no stop signs or pedestrian crosswalks in an area teeming with surfers, beach-seeking visitors and residents alike, locals fear a horrific tragedy is on the horizon, and the most troubling part — because the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) owns the deed to the strip of land, DOT and ABTS are legally prohibited from enforcing any traffic safety.

This past Monday, June 25, at a press conference held with NY1 and The Rockaway Times, ABTS’ homeowners association (HOA) reps, supported by residents, were furious. Pam Foster, representing ABTS HOA, The Dunes, said, “We need three-way stop signs at the intersections between Beach 62nd, Beach 67th, Beach 69th and Beach Front Road. The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) had put up stop signs on at least two occasions, but then were forced to take them down because they were illegal because the Department of Housing Preservation and Development owns the deed to the land. How is this possible, when the plan for ABTS was developed at least 20 years ago? In the developer’s agreement, they were required to put stop signs, and now what? We have to wait for HPD to transfer twenty-year-old paperwork to DOT? This is a huge safety issue for everyone visiting the beach and families living in the area. How much longer do we have to wait?”

Edwin Williams, president of ABTS HOA, Palmers Landing, and second vice president of civic association, The Heart of Rockaway (THOR), was beyond furious. “There’s no Vision Zero in Rockaway. The mayor launched Vision Zero to reduce traffic fatalities by 50 percent by 2025. Is Rockaway not in NYC? Is ABTS not a thriving development boasted as bringing a new vitality to a once barren area? So now what? The councilman for this district is chair of NYC Council’s Committee on Public Safety. What is he doing to help people in his district fearing for the lives of their families, the elderly and visitors? Besides focusing on his agenda to add more low income housing development and homeless shelters in Rockaway, he should be focusing on what the people who invested in Rockaway need, safe streets where we don’t have to fear that someone will be knocked down because of the lack of traffic signage,” Williams said.

In 1988, HPD issued a “Request for Expressions of Interest,” in search of developers and designers of Arverne, an area that decades before boasted a thriving beach community, but decayed due to the changing times. In 2000, a Request for Proposals was issued to develop 100 acres to the west of the Urban Renewal Area, which was awarded to the Benjamin Development Company, Inc., The Beechwood Organization, and Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects. According to ABTS website, “Their vision was to create a series of distinct and walkable neighborhoods,” integrated by public spaces.

Well according to Jody Blanco, who lives in ABTS’ The Breakers development, Beach Front Road is definitely not walkable, but it’s not the developers’ fault, it’s HPD’s. “HPD was supposed to transfer to DOT the deed to this land, and because of bureaucracy, nothing is moving. A meeting was held a few weeks ago with DOT, HPD, ABTS developers and residents, and a rep from Councilman Donovan Richards’ office. All we were told is that HPD is working on transferring the paperwork. How long do we have to wait? My son plays little league baseball, and we used his baseball radar speed gun to gauge how fast the cars were flying down Beach Front Road. We clocked over 60 mph!

Pedestrians are supposed to have the right-of-way, but on this strip, seems like the drivers behind the wheel usurp that right. I made multiple complaints to 311, and they all came back closed. Why? Because HPD still owns the deed to the land,” Blanco said, shaking his head.

Community Board 14 board member, Chris Tedesco, representing ABTS’s HOA, The Breakers, agreed. “A lot of elderly residents cross this road to get to the boardwalk and beach for their daily exercise. I’m frightened for them and everyone — including other residents and visitors. Something needs to be done, now.”

The RT reached out to HPD, DOT, Councilman Donovan Richards’ office and ABTS developers. As of press time, HPD and DOT released the following joint statement, “The safety of our city’s residents is our top concern. HPD and DOT are working together to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”

Gerry Romski, CEO of ABTS, said, “We are stuck in the middle of the bureaucracy. As part of the development plan, we put up stop signs and crosswalk signage, but were forced to remove them because of city legalities. I sincerely hope that this issue gets resolved before someone gets hurt.”

As for Lenny Yarde, who lives in ABTS’ Waters Edge, he summed it up with a message to HPD: “Just turn the doggone deed over, it’s not rocket science. People’s lives are at risk.”

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