What’s Going Up On Beach 113th?

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 Besides the increasing colorful murals on plywood going up around it, there is a lot going on on the corner of Beach 113th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. In fact, Rockaway’s Sal LoPizzo and his partners are looking to creatively transform the whole area.

Until now the corner has been dominated by a large, old rambling and largely empty three story house. Left in battered condition after Hurricane Sandy, it marked a largely lagging center point between bustling 116th Street and the up and coming Beach 80’s and 90’s.

“I know, I am here,” LoPizzo told the Rockaway Times. “I live on the block. I live on 113th.”

Pointing to the house he said, “We’re tearing it down in January.” In its place will be a brand new state of the art building designed for resilience and Rockaway. “It will be what’s called a ‘passive house.’ That is, it produces more power than it uses. It will be totally self-sustaining, with solar power and a wind turbine on the roof.”

The new sleek structure will have six apartment units. There will also be retail space. To solve an ongoing area problem, it will have parking below it, complete with car charging stations.

Built on one story supports, it is designed to withstand any future storms like Sandy. With all operating essentials built in above the lower ‘sacrificial’ levels, and generating its own independent power, it can remain self-sustaining during and after such a storm.

It will also be designed, inside and out, to make maximum use of the energy it produces. Through a new sealed air exchange system it will retain the heat it produces in winter and hold onto its cool air in summer. In fact through this and other design features, it will use up to 90 percent less energy than a conventional building.

“It’s going to be a prototype. We want to show people in Rockaway what can be done,” LoPizzo said.

A longtime resident and community activist, LoPizzo is a partner in a company called Producktif. A design studio and think tank, with its affiliate Producktif Building Solutions Inc., its tagline is “developing sustainable communities by design.”

LoPizzo’s partners include architect and Producktif President Rune Kongshaug, Creative Director and CEO Kareen Smith and others. “(They) have a good track record.  They’ve done a lot good.”

Years earlier LoPizzo had created YANA (You Are Never Alone) a center for outreach and job training on Rockaway Beach Boulevard, across from the corner he is now working to transform.

 “It took a lot to buy the house. It had over $200K in violations. It took a long time for me to negotiate that and clear everything, but we did. We raised the money and bought it outright.”

But just than just putting a building on a corner, LoPizzo and partners want to put a bigger change in motion.

“Sandy was a real eye-opener. It made us look at making a lot of change that was good. It’s up to us how it’s going to happen.  You know, you get these big developers who put up these big eyesores. Then all the people who live there get pushed out. We’d like to put it in local hands.”

Citing problems in the rundown area, for example, he says “That bodega is an eyesore. People have been complaining about it for years.  We’d like to eventually buy that whole block. That whole block will change. It will change the area.” The goal is to create residential and local small business clusters that will grow the neighborhood.

 “We can’t just say ‘Let’s just hand it over to other people coming in.’ You don’t want it to be an Atlantic City. Big developers, they create jobs, but not jobs that go anywhere.”

With his background at YANA, “creating actual sustaining jobs” and long lasting change is high on LoPizzo’s plan.

“We’re working on another project in Edgemere. We’re looking at something geared towards veterans there. Vets are coming back. They have skills, they have discipline. Maybe they can teach youth there. That’s what we’d like to see is workforce development with new technology.  Not just an OSHA certificate.”

Looking from the old house on the corner to the rendering of the new building on his smartphone, and the transformation it will bring, he says, “It’ll happen.”

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