Rebuilding Rockaway East

Rebuilding Rockway East

The birds are coming back.  So are the frogs and salamanders. On Wednesday, May 21, residents of the Peninsula gathered for a community update:  ‘Arverne East and the Future of Rockaway.’ The meeting was an opportunity for the developer, architect and elected officials to present their vision for the rebuilding of the area. The planned design is thoughtful and progressive. The space includes recreational, living, commercial, entertaining and educational spaces.  There will also be plenty of open spaces for passive recreation.  The plan calls for relocating the current school, so students can be dropped off in a quiet location and the creation of the vocational school which will tackle progressive trades like solar energy.  Fifty acres have been set aside as a nature preserve, which is the most interesting part of the design. The plan for Rockaway East addresses the existing vulnerable areas and their combination of causes: high tides, rain water, fresh water and wave pressure from the bay and the sea.  Architects turned to nature to help solve those problems.  Trees, which decrease the force of the waves and their roots help secure foundations, will be added to the landscape.  Adding fresh water to the area will mean animals can return.  The Peninsula is far enough from JFK International airport to be a safe haven. You could hear a pin drop in the room filled with over 200 residents as the forensics ecology employed in the rebuild design was explained.  Walter Meyer, the landscape architect, explained how the plan calls for the implementation of solar energy to the area to decrease the cost of electricity to residents.  Methane, a byproduct of the rising sea level, will also be integrated into the area to create energy.  These renewable energy sources also aid in snow removal. Developers also examined ways to address mobility throughout the neighborhood.  One was creating pathways that could potentially be used by seniors without the threat of traffic.  Bike shares, unlike the current NYC Citibike program, could also be effective in the area moving people through the retail corridors to the beach. 1,199 residential units are being proposed which would include 169 town houses, 466 duplex units and 564 multifamily units.  Commercial spaces will include approximately 154,000 square feet and the developers are looking for a supermarket to anchor the corridor.  While it is too soon to plan for retail, the goal is for a mix retail corridor which will include areas where businesses can own the property.  Ownership, as explained by Mr. Meyer, is an indicator that a neighborhood can withstand gentrification.  Plenty of parking, lockers (yeah!), the availability for community spaces and kiosks are also components in the design. The plan calls for a mixed income population to inhabit the area.  The Councilman did take time after the presentation to clarify the definition of low income. “There is nothing wrong with public housing,” he said.  “This is not a public housing site.  This is a mix of low income and market rate housing.”  He defined low income loosely as those individuals with starting salaries of $45,000, like those of firefighters, police officers and workers at St. Johns Hospital.  The makeup of the area is to be mixed. “Black, white, purple, yellow…martians…we want them all in the Rockaways,” Councilman Richards said. Members of Rockaway Wildfire were on hand as partners in the rebuilding, representing the communities’ interest.  Lead Organizer Kalin Callaghan, a Peninsula native who recently returned after getting priced out of a Brooklyn neighborhood, presented key points of the Community Benefits Agreement.  They include careers, not jobs, from the local economy and acceptable and affordable housing with a priority for those who have been displaced by the Hurricane. “What a plan,” said Councilman Richards. Milan Taylor, President of Rockaway Youth Task Force was equally excited about the plan.  “It will bring something new so our young people don’t have to make the tough decision on whether to leave,” he said. The feedback from residents was overwhelmingly positive.  But the true indicator that this is a great plan is twofold.  First, envy rumors are seeping out of the West End of the Peninsula about the plan.  Secondly, and most probably a better indicator, landscape architect Walter Meyer, a former Rockaway Resident, is moving his family back to Far Rockaway. “This is an opportunity for everyone to live in the Rockaways.  Everyone can live on the beach,” said Councilman Richards. Arverne East LLC, a partnership of Bluestone, L&M Development and Triangle Equities will be developing the space.  It will take time to break ground and begin development.  The plan covers the areas of Beach 44th to Beach 56th Streets.  §

By:Karen Clements

Contact Karen Clements

Published April 2013 Edition

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