New York’s city council voted on Thursday to spend $126 million of city funds on a $288 million plan to revitalize 20 blocks in Far Rockaway
At the heart of the project will be the long-ailing Far Rockaway Shopping Center on Mott Avenue. The city hopes transform nearly two dozen vacant storefronts in the plaza, which sits like a rotting Chinese wall between the terminuses of the A train and the Long Island Railroad, into a vibrant downtown area.
Plans also include a park at the site of a current Department of Sanitation lot, funding for a new branch of the Queens Public Library, and improvements to the sewer system, sidewalks, public plazas and existing parks.
“Today, we begin the journey of building on the progress we have made over the past four years, by infusing hundreds of millions of dollars into infrastructure, quality jobs, parks, streetscape, transit improvements, and both community facility and open space,” said Far Rockaway councilman Donovan Richards.
“I’m pleased to have helped coordinate among the federal, state and city governments as well as community partners on the monumental Roadmap for Action,” said the area’s member of Congress, Gregory Meeks. “Through our ongoing efforts to increase affordable housing options, improve transportation infrastructure, and boost the local economy, Far Rockaway will become a more competitive and attractive enclave of New York City.”
There will also be upgrades to the local city bus system for greater access to work, school and recreation. That includes an extension of the shuttle bus to the ferry landing at Beach 108th Street and installing real-time bus arrival displays at major stops.
“This plan represents the promise of what we can achieve when we come together to ensure that our neighborhoods are vibrant places of opportunity for current and future residents,” Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer said. “Working across agencies, in lockstep with the community, we’ve created a blueprint for the future of downtown Far Rockaway as a dynamic hub for the region, with strategies to develop and safeguard affordable housing, protect tenants, improve infrastructure, and grow the local economy.”
City planners have said they want to turn Far Rockaway into peninsula’s commercial hub without evicting those who live there through rising rents or driving out small businesses in favor of larger corporations.
“This project will bring new commercial space and small business support to the area.” Said Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
“I grew up in Far Rockaway, and I can tell you we’ve needed this kind of structural change to our zoning for the longest time,” said Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato. “This community really is a jewel, and we’re just here today to give it the polish it needs to shine.”
With reporting by Tyler Marko