The land use plan, part of a broader initiative known as Resilient Edgemere, encompasses the area bound by Beach 35th Street and Beach 50th Street and will change zoning rules to increase density in some areas, limit development in others and raise the shoreline along Jamaica Bay.

Adi Talwar

Jamaica Bay

The City Council voted Thursday to rezone a 166-acre swath of Edgemere, approving a plan first proposed by the de Blasio administration that could add more than 1,200 new housing units and improve resiliency in a Queens neighborhood at severe risk of flooding.

The land use plan, part of a broader initiative known as Resilient Edgemere, encompasses the area bound by Beach 35th Street and Beach 50th Street and will change zoning rules to increase density in some areas, limit development in others and raise the shoreline along Jamaica Bay. Resilient Edgemere also includes efforts to develop housing on city-owned parcels, elevate homes, improve parks and infrastructure and designate 16 acres as open space to be used for coastal protection.

The Council specifically approved five applications submitted by the city’s Department of Housing and Preservation and Development (HPD) to amend the zoning and allow for new development with mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) affordability rules, which force developers to cap rents on a portion of their units for low- and middle-income New Yorkers. Around 530 new units will be affordable under MIH, according to HPD, and 35 percent of those affordable units will be up for sale, not rent. The plan would further a Community Land Trust on up to eight acres of city-owned land.

Resilient Edgemere establishes two special coastal risk districts, which HPD defines as “currently at exceptional risk from flooding and may face greater risk in the future.”

Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers, who represents Edgemere and other neighborhoods in the eastern portion of the Rockaway Peninsula, said the changes will allow for more affordable homes in the waterfront neighborhood, while shoring up the region against rising sea levels and storm-related flooding.

“Edgemere will benefit from vital affordable homeownership opportunities, infrastructure investments and protection from a changing climate,” Brooks-Powers said. “Rockaway has seen a surge of new development in recent years, but that development has not been accompanied by a commensurate investment in local infrastructure.”

Brooks-Powers inherited the project from her predecessor, Donovan Richards, who was elected Queens borough president in 2020 and told City Limits he was pleased that the Council voted to approve the rezoning after seven years of planning and community engagement. Richards recommended the plan in his advisory role in March but urged the city to foster affordable home ownership opportunities in response to community demands.

“There is tremendous promise in the Resilient Edgemere Community Plan,” Richards said, adding that he would focus on ensuring that developers and the city adhere to local hiring and MWBE commitments.

Under the changes, which now await Mayor Eric Adams’ signature, most of the area north of Beach Channel Drive would be zoned for one- and two-family homes, while the stretch between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Edgemere Avenue would allow for taller, mixed-used buildings. City-owned vacant land next to the Edgemere Houses would be converted to open space, as would much of the land abutting the Jamaica Bay.

In a statement following the vote, Adams hailed the plan as “an important step forward for residents of Edgemere, the Rockaways, and the entire city.”

While Resilient Edgemere planning formally began in 2015, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, city-led efforts to spur development and so-called “urban renewal” in the area date back many years. A 1997 plan outlined low-rise development on parcels of vacant city-owned property. The city then funded improvements to the sewer system and streets infrastructure, while financing hundreds of new homes. But the area was hit hard by both the 2008 financial crisis, which stalled development, and severe damage from Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Three years later, a joint effort by HPD, the Department of City Planning, the Mayor’s Office of Housing Recovery Operations and the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency formed the Resilient Edgemere Community Planning Initiative. The project sought to engage locals while making long-term plans to protect the area from flood risk without displacing residents.

Despite that engagement effort, many in the neighborhood—including every member of Community Board 14—have resisted the plan, with some calling on the city to increase resiliency without the added residential density. At a Land Use Committee hearing Monday, where members voted unanimously to approve the project, Brooks-Powers described the project as a “win for all New Yorkers” but discussed some of the concerns residents had.

Residents questioned how limits on new development in some areas may affect the ability to add a trauma center on the Peninsula, which is currently served by a single hospital, St. John’s Episcopal. The need for new medical centers has existed since Peninsula Hospital Center—where Brooks-Powers once worked—filed for bankruptcy and closed a decade ago. St. John’s Episcopal has also been the target of proposals to slash beds and state funding.

“When lives are on the line a trauma center on the Peninsula can mean the difference between life and death for many of these people,” Brooks-Powers said.

She also noted that the project needed to include protections and opportunities for affordable homeownership for current residents, saying that those homes would “preserve and maintain the way of life that Edgemere residents have come to love about their neighborhood.”

“I have also long said that homeownership is key to building generational wealth, particularly for communities of color,” she added.

CB14, meanwhile, voted to reject the plan in February in its advisory role. Members said the plan would add too many apartments to a low-rise residential area and strain local roads and infrastructure. The land use changes will speed development in an area already marked by construction following a separate rezoning in nearby Far Rockaway.

In May, developers broke ground on Edgemere Commons, a mixed-use development at the former site of the Peninsula Hospital Center. The 17-story building will include 194 affordable apartments, 29 units for adults with developmental disabilities and 30 for people experiencing homelessness. Eventually, the development will expand to include more than 2,000 affordable and middle-income homes.

HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión Jr. said the Resilient Edgemere Plan was the next step in adding affordable housing to the area while mitigating flood risk.

“Together we developed a comprehensive framework that creates desperately needed affordable housing, increases homeownership opportunities, improves flexibility for more diverse retail and other desired community uses and activates vacant land for public benefit,” he said.