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Community Board 14 December Meeting Recap

The last Community Board 14 (CB14) meeting of the year was held on Tuesday, December 8. With a total of 64 participants on the Zoom call, all were eager to hear the information presented by the NYC Dept. of City Planning regarding the new amendment to the special regulations in flood hazard areas.

The meeting began with a report from Chairwoman Dolores Orr. She stated that she attended a meeting with the JFK Airport Committee, which focuses on airport construction and the impact of flights over our community. They will be asking the FAA to do a study on rerouting departing flights that use Runway 31A, which currently flies over Howard Beach across Broad Channel Island and Rockaway Beach/Rockaway Park and Bayswater/ Far Rockaway. If the FAA agrees to conduct the study, they will redirect departing flight routes to fly over Jamaica Bay.

Orr concluded her report by announcing that the City is looking to have concessionaires with electric scooters, and Rockaway will be one of the places to receive the scooters. These scooters will be permitted to ride in NYC designated bike lanes. However, Orr stated that the question now becomes whether the scooters will be allowed on the bike lanes on the boardwalk. As of now, the Dept. of Transportation declined scheduling a meeting regarding this topic, stating that it is too early in the process to decide on specific details.

The meeting continued with a brief presentation from Matthew Walker, an outreach specialist for the Council of Airport Opportunity. The goal of this organization is to help underserved communities located by the airports and individuals from these communities find job opportunities at the airports. Walker stated that although air travel has slowed down since COVID-19, there are still a number of positions they are looking to fill. The Council of Airport Opportunity hosts workforce webinars with the Queens Public Library every Tuesday and Thursday at 10 a.m., where individuals are introduced to different career sectors at the airport.

NYS Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson then gave an update regarding his first month in office. He has co-sponsored ten pieces of legislation addressing the housing crisis across the state. The pieces of legislation address New Yorkers falling behind with their rent and mortgage, as well as all of the small businesses that are struggling to afford their commercial rents. The Save Our Storefront bill will provide state funding and support to those businesses. Additionally, Anderson introduced his first bill that would help renters in public housing.

Next, Captain Fabara from the 100th Precinct gave a 28-day update regarding crimes. There were no murders. Rapes were down 50% from the same 28-day period last year. There were two robbery incidents, both involving carjacking, which he believes were conducted by the same individual. Felony assaults are up about 50% from last year’s 28-day period. These assaults are mainly being driven by domestic incidents, but they have arrested more than half of those assailants. Fabara reported that there has been a decrease in grand larceny auto. He concluded his report stating that overall our crime is up 13%, which is a total increase of four crimes for the 28 day period.

The meeting continued with the main item on the agenda, the City Planning’s Zoning for Coastal Flood Resiliency, which focused mainly on the resiliency of NYC’s buildings stock. This presentation was brought to CB14 by Dept. of City Planning’s (DCP) representative, Hallah Saleh. This proposed text amendment will be added to the existing flood plan that was initiated after Superstorm Sandy. These will be citywide changes, but DCP is very interested in hearing from coastal communities on how they feel about the new text amendments.

This zoning proposal focuses the most on areas FEMA has designated as high risk flood zones, or the 1% of flood zones, which includes Rockaway and Broad Channel. The city’s floodplain includes a variety of neighborhoods, including residences and local businesses. Saleh stated that they need to implement a strategy that includes multiple kinds of defense. The city work includes coastal defense strategies, protection of inland infrastructure (e.g. drainage and transit), and advanced emergency preparedness. 

Because these zoning text flexibilities were originally passed as temporary emergency measures that are beginning to expire, DCP is now is looking to make many of these temporary amendments permanent. Saleh stated there are regulations which apply to the construction of buildings in the floodplain today. These regulations can be found in the Building Code Appendix G, which is regulated and enforced by the Dept. of Buildings.

Saleh concluded her presentation by stating the four proposed goals for the original 2013 text amendments regarding zoning for coastal resilience. She stated the 2013 provisions did not assist all types of communities across the city floodplain, meaning older neighborhoods did not receive enough relief. The first goal is to encourage resilience throughout the current and future floodplain, which will expand the applicability of the current amendment to a broader set of buildings exposed to flooding. The second goal is to support long term resilient design of all building types, encouraging building heights to be higher and more consistent. Additionally, there will be ground floor regulations, which will help promote long term resilient design and neighborhood streetscapes. The third goal is to allow for adaptation over time through incremental retrofits. This will allow for additional flexibility for wider range of siting for these structures, provided they’re not placed too close to neighboring property. The last goal is to facilitate future recovery by reducing regulatory obstacles for the entire city, not just those located in the floodplain. This will ensure all areas can provide ADA access and classify ramps/lifts as permitted obstructions, as well as all power systems such as generators to be permitted. This goal will also look at how disasters that require evacuation of residents impact vulnerable populations. It will prohibit new nursing homes and allow for the enlargement of existing facilities within the 1% annual chance floodplain. The purpose of the new zone amendments is to enable new rules that would help more predictable long-term recovery efforts, allowing for homeowners and businesses to have a longer timeline to conduct recovery operations.

The meeting concluded with CB14 voting on the motion whether or not to accept the new zone text amendments regarding Coastal Flood Resiliency. CB14 Board passed a motion in support of the zoning changes with a few amendments that they recommend. The amendments suggested from CB14 were as follows: to see a proposed text change stating those in the 1% floodplain zoning do not have to abide by Appendix G guidelines for existing homeowners if they wish to renovate their homes for less than 75% of renovations; the definition of vulnerable populations to not only include nursing homes, but those in any adult homes/assisted living facilities, homeless shelters, and to restrict any new senior housing to residents of that CB only; and that the amount of new housing has to correlate with the ability of our evacuation routes. 

By Marina Cregan 

 

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