Arverne East Gets the Green Light

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 Decades in the making, Arverne East is about to become a reality. The new community development set for an area between Beach 32nd Street and Beach 56th Place, has completed the ULURP process for the necessary zoning changes and approvals to move forward.

Arverne East is a multifaceted 116.5-acre project that will include construction of an approximately 35-acre publicly accessible nature preserve, mixed income housing of 1,650 affordable and market rate units, diverse neighborhood retail, parking, and infrastructure. The project also includes an urban farm, a boutique hotel, a microbrewery, open space, and both short term and long-term programming to encourage economic development, cultural programs, and community health and wellness.

Arverne East was a plan long in the making for the parcel of land that has remained abandoned for more than 40 years. Last year it was given new life as developers, L&M Development Partners, Triangle Equities, and the Bluestone Organization, selected through a Request for Proposals process by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), began the Land Use process for zoning changes needed to move forward with the proposal. In August, they filed the application and brought the proposal to Community Board 14 for review in the fall. In November, CB14 voted against the plan, with conditions. This was followed by local elected officials such as Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Senator Joe Addabbo calling for a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be done for the project, as the project was developed based on an EIS done in 2003. In December, Queens Borough President Donovan Richard held a public hearing for the project and ultimately approved it, with conditions, on December 23. The plan moved forward to the City Planning Commission in January, which after determining a new EIS wouldn’t be necessary and holding a hearing in which 43 people spoke in favor of the plan and five against, voted to approve the plan in mid-February. In March, the City Council adopted the proposal and Mayor de Blasio was given an opportunity to review the application by March 30, but he did not veto it, making the process complete.

Upon his approval in December, Richards had made several recommendations to the developers and HPD, some of which they made a commitment to. Richards recommended that the developers commit to local hiring for the project. During the construction period, they’ve committed to having employers with less than 100 employees, have at least 20% local hires, and those with 110 employees or more will have at least 30% local hires. They also committed to working with 32BJ to ensure at least 50% of building services jobs are provided to local residents.

Richards had requested at least 50,000 SF of space be allocated for a community center use in the project. The developers said they anticipate over 22,000 square feet of community facility space to be included across the project and have identified a location on Edgemere Avenue between Beach 34th and Beach 35th Streets for a stand-alone community center building.

For the hotel portion of the project, Richards requested that there be deed restrictions for the use of the hotel. The developers have committed to prohibiting the hotel from being used as a homeless shelter. Richards also requested that the developers create a Community Advisory Board (CAB) with representatives from Community Board 14, local community and civic organizations, relevant government agencies and elected officials to meet with the development team on a quarterly basis for the duration of the project. The developers have committed to holding quarterly meetings with community groups regarding the project.

HPD, working with the developers, responded to some of Richards’ other requests in December. Due to a lack of adequate healthcare facilities on the peninsula, Richards requested that a new city Health and Hospitals Corporation facility should be sited in the area. HPD said, “In our negotiations with the proposed developers of Arverne East, we will seek to incorporate healthcare facilities within the project, where feasible.”

Richards asked that the site include new schools and investments in existing schools in the area. HPD said, “The School Construction Authority is holding a site for a potential school until 2027 to satisfy potential school seat needs in the area. Additionally, the Department of Education has jurisdiction over a parcel of land on Beach 39th Street for the purposes of a future school. The SCA is committed to using either, or both of these sites for a school, should capacity projections trigger a new school.”

 Richards called for Edgemere Avenue to be widened to accommodate existing traffic and any vehicular traffic that will be added by the large scale projects that are planned for the area. HPD said, “The project will include infrastructure work to reconstruct Edgemere Avenue into a 4-lane roadway between Beach 32nd and Beach 38th Street. As a component of this project, we expect to seek additional funding of up to $2 million to design the widening of Edgemere Avenue from Beach 38th Street to Beach 62nd Street.”

Richards called for more beach access in the area from Beach 32nd to Beach 59th Street, including an increase in lifeguards and Parks staff for this area. HPD committed to working with Parks to increase staff in this area but said it would be dependent upon the city budget and the number of available lifeguards hired to protect the beaches.

Richards requested that the project not only provide potential home ownership of the market rate units, but the affordable units. HPD said, “During the later phases of the project, HPD intends to include some level of affordable homeownership, where feasible.”

Some conditions, such as transit and transportation improvements for the area were not addressed by HPD or the developers.

HPD hopes to begin construction on the project this year, starting with development of the nature preserve and infrastructure improvements sometime this summer.

 By Katie McFadden

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