On July 11th, a small crowd gathered in the recently built Pedestrian Plaza on Beach 21st to hear a press conference on new development in Far Rockaway. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC), Council Member Donovan Richards and Assemblywoman Michele Titus announced that a nonprofit group called The Community Builders, Inc. will be managing new construction on a city-owned lot at Beach 21st Street. The new mixed-use building will include shops, early education facilities, parking areas, urban growing space, and 224 units of affordable housing.
The Pedestrian Plaza (located in a corridor between Beach 20th and Beach 21st, right off of Mott Ave) is the first visible result of a $228 million dollar, “Downtown Revitalization”, development deal for Far Rockaway. The Community Builders will be managing one section of that plan, which covers the entire downtown area. For Councilman Richards, who has spearheaded efforts to secure vital funding and rezoning for the project, the location of the press conference was symbolic — he made a point of announcing that two more plazas are in the works. “What happened in the past, was that we just built housing, with no amenities, no community benefit,” said Richards, “We’re turning the page on that story here.” In addition to the added amenities, Richards highlighted goals of including 40% minority/women owned businesses in the Beach 21st building, and resurfacing the Mott Ave sidewalks and road.
Assemblywoman Titus summed up the plans by saying that “you’re going to see a real transformation here.” While the goals of the project are hopeful, some residents remain unconvinced of the outcomes. As Richards was announcing the details of the Beach 21st, one Rockaway resident started a profane tirade that continued throughout the rest of the event, repeatedly chanting “it’s a lie, they’re liars,” as well as other language. This is the first investment in development that Far Rockaway has seen in decades — clearly it will take more work and strong results to build community trust in the project.
~by Gabby Preston