Ten months after the City Council’s approval of the Far Rockaway rezoning, the de Blasio administration last week announced its selection of a nonprofit developer and financing construction for two Far Rockaway affordable housing projects slated to bring in 670 affordable units this month after the area’s rezoning was approved last year in September.
The city selected the nonprofit developer The Community Builders, Inc. (TCB) to create 224 units of mixed income affordable housing, commercial space, and community facilities on an underutilized city-owned lot at Beach 21st Street.
The city also announced construction financing for 457 units of affordable housing as part of the initial phase of Far Rockaway Village, a project that will revamp an overlooked shopping center into a mix of affordable housing, retail and public space.
“We are thrilled to see a large affordable housing development take shape so soon after the community-driven Downtown Far Rockaway Plan was adopted,” Department of City Planning Director Marisa Lago in a joint press release. “We’re off to a running start. Kudos to the Downtown Far Rockaway community for a truly excellent example of neighborhood planning.”
The city’s rezoning plan includes investments in infrastructure, parks, community facilities, housing resources, and small-business support such as new open space on the vacant New York Department of Sanitation site at Brunswick and Nameoke; renovation of the Downtown Far Rockaway library; upgrading sewer infrastructure and expanding sidewalks; free legal services for Rockaway residents facing unlawful evictions and tenant harassment; supporting existing businesses; grants for cultural organizations and increased arts programming and installing real-time bus arrival displays at key bus stops.
The Economic Development Corporation said the two projects unveiled July 11 were in line with the Roadmap for Action, a 25-point interagency action plan for a mixed-use neighborhood and the commercial hub of the peninsula developed before the rezoning from recommendations by the Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group led by community leaders, elected officials and residents. Some had expressed concerns about affordable housing and displacement during the ULURP process last year.
Stakeholders tell City Limits these first projects left them cautiously optimistic that the rezoning would deliver on the promise of a more vibrant neighborhood.
Jonathan Gaska, District Manager for Community Board 14, says it is too early to see if the projects would live up to expectation of the community but many residents are being hopeful, “It is exciting to see the Beach 21st project is going to get off the ground and it will happen soon.”
Gaska says the Rockaway Village development project will take time. “There is a lot of infrastructure that needs to put in place starting from sewers and then the demolition of the building. I think people are waiting for the demolition to happen, then it can become more of a reality.
“Government can move at a glacial pace,” Gaska says, noting it could be two to three years before results are seen on the Village site, which is a large parcel. “But it will be great to see the Beach 21st project which will right across from a plaza.”
The Beach 21st project includes a mixed-use building will have over 130 units allocated for households earning up to 60 percent of area median income, which ranges from between $43,000 to $72,000 depending on the size of the family according to the HPD. The remaining units will be offered at a range of affordability levels. The project is expected to break ground in 2019 and scheduled to be completed in 2021.
“The Beach 21st Street lot will be transformed into quality affordable housing for working families along with retail and community space to help lift up residents and local nonprofits delivering services to our community,” Councilman Donovan Richards in a statement. “As with every project in the Rockaways, we will work with the developer to ensure that we address the highest community needs, such as daycare services, good jobs and quality retail.”
The Village project will include 67 units for extremely low-income households—46 of which will be designated for formerly homeless households; the remaining 388 units will serve a diverse range of household incomes including very low-income, low-income, and moderate-income individuals and families. The project also includes 2,000 square feet of commercial space and 23,000 square feet of public plaza space.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development said in an email that specific income levels would not be available until financing for the projects are confirmed.
Some residents are skeptical of action plan for housing, “Of course we want affordable housing. But will it be for the hard working class folks in the Rockaways?” asked Bruce Jacobs from the Coalition of the Rockaways. “We want a healthy balance in the neighborhood. We have to see what happens and how it happens.”