At the onset of Community Board 14’s first meeting for 2019 this past Tuesday, January 8 at Bayswater Jewish Center, folks cordially greeted each other “Happy New Year!” However, once the evening kicked off, tensions ran high. From worries about yet another new mixed-income housing development with the proposed Beach 21st Street site, homeless shelters, and lack of infrastructure with parking and schools included for the Downtown Far Rock’s Revitalization; lack of progress with Arverne East’s development; status of Peninsula Hospital’s former site, and worries about Rockaway Beach — not just beach erosion, but the safety and challenges already witnessed in the winter months — folks were not just silently despondent, they were mad, and wanted answers.
First up was CB14 Chairwoman Dolores Orr commenting on her disappointment with NY Rising, (a participatory recovery and resiliency initiative established to provide assistance to communities severely damaged by Superstorm Sandy, federally allotted with more than $700 million). “We are hoping to receive their most recent report, which we have been promised to get by next week,” Orr said.
CB14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska announced two committee meetings both happening next week at Knights of Columbus at 7 p.m. On Tuesday, January 15, is CB14’s Youth Services/Education Committee meeting, and the Transportation Committee’s meeting is on Wednesday, January 16.
CB14 board member and Rockaway Beach Civic Association (RBCA) president John Cori brought up the lack of development for Arverne East. “I would like to hear from all the agencies involved. I feel that even after the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was announced by the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), all the focus has been on downtown Far Rock. Why isn’t CB14 becoming bigger players on Arverne East’s future?”
In attendance was Councilman Donovan Richards, who responded, “Mayor Alicia Glen will be meeting with folks who were part of the project. However, keep in mind that the infrastructure costs for Arverne East are astronomical. This project dates back to the Bloomberg administration. The current administration wants less density in the plan. I believe the current vision is for it to be less residential, and more commercial. The focus is on homeownership, small homes that are affordable, and shrinking the density of the area. ”
Gaska added, “The original version of the plan was market rate with the developers paying for the infrastructure. However, as soon as you add ‘affordability’ to the equation, the infrastructure costs, like Donovan said, are astronomical.”
During the public speaking period, Lisa George from Senator James Sanders’ office announced two critical meetings: Next Friday, January 18, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., at Battalion Pentecostal Assembly Inc. (454 Beach 67th Street), Sanders is hosting an event to provide his constituents with property tax exemptions and utility bill reduction assistance. On Saturday, February 2, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Black Spectrum Theatre (inside Roy Wilkins Park: 177-01 Baisley Blvd., Jamaica), get ready for a hot debate on marijuana legalization. To RSVP, contact Sanders’ office at 718-523-3069 or 718-327-7017.
District Leader Lew Simon announced a Public Advocate Forum on Thursday, January 24, 7 p.m. at Martin De Porres HS (140 B 112 Street, where all candidates will participate. Simon also voiced concerns about something that was on many minds—the rising water level on the peninsula and Broad Channel. “With the continual rains, flooding has been rampant and our sand is almost gone in some areas. What’s going to happen this summer with our prime beaches and bay,” Simon said.
RBCA’s Bridget Klapinski, Clare Hilger and Jeremy Jones expressed their worries about the health and safety of Rockaway Beach. “With all the flooding and continual tides — from wire, wood, garbage — there is so much hazardous debris collecting on the beach. We are less than five months before Memorial Weekend. Unless something is done, the beaches are going to be shut down again, which is a big letdown, not just for residents, but visitors. Forget swimming, people already can’t walk on the beach. And also, beach? What beach, it’s gone! We want the Parks Department to not just drive by this strip, but walk. The decayed wooden sticks from the groins are a huge safety hazard. Please remove these sticks!,” the group said.
Councilman Richards then reported on quite a few highlights in all the multi-million-dollar construction projects underway for Downtown Far Rock’s revitalization. Namely: The reconstruction of the abandoned Thriftway Mall is starting; also revamping existing schools with new facilities and equipment; tackling the flooding issues in Arverne and Edgemere and downtown Far Rock; rebuilding the Far Rockaway library, expanding the Arverne library; funding the new maternity ward at St. John’s and expanding the Addabbo Health Center’s facilities and services; expanding sanitation pickup in Mott Avenue (Beach Channel Drive to Cornaga Avenue); building affordable housing at Beach Dunes II; senior affordable housing on Beach 34th Street; and the most recent jewel, the Beach 21st Street site, which boasts 224 affordable housing units with retail space, community playground and garden and parking spots, and the list goes on. One important mention, regarding flooding, Richards advised that if you see catch basins clogged, call 311 immediately, as clogged basins add to flooding.
Though many at CB14’s meeting were elated by the downtown improvements, there were many questions.
Bayswater Civic Association President Enid Glabman had a question regarding schools. “With all this new housing and people coming in, I don’t hear you discussing plans for new schools. Especially for children on the elementary school level. Many parents like knowing they can walk their children to school, instead of bussing them,” Glabman said. Richards responded, “As you see, many schools in the plan are going to be upgraded and totally improved. Most middle class people don’t send their children in this area to the local schools, due to lack of educational quality or safety. However, these schools are going to be upgraded to an elevated field, where parents will feel encouraged.”
As for Community Builders presentation about the Beach 21st Street (behind Mott Avenue) that boasts 224 apartments, green-equipped affordable housing units with solar energy, 24K square-feet of ground floor retail space, a fitness center, community garden and playground and over 470 construction jobs — those in attendance were not impressed.
Cori asked, “Forget about adding more housing with no schools or parking. To whom are these construction jobs going to? They should be kept local and union.” To which the Builders’ team responded, “We don’t have control over that, especially because of the nature of the project, we’re not sure who’s going to be hired, and if they will be paid union rates.”
A vote was then called as for whether CB14 would endorse the Beach 21st project. With a majority vote of 19, Community Builders got the support they needed to present their plan to the Queens Borough President’s Office this coming Monday.BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS