BY TRONE DOWD
Once considered an example of squandered economic opportunity, Downtown Far Rockaway will soon be at the heart of the neighborhood’s revitalization plan.
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) has announced concrete plans for the near vacant shopping center located along Mott Avenue. The lot, which hasn’t seen significant change or investment since the 1960s, will soon be home to nearly 700 units of mixed-income housing, a resource that is paramount for the Southeast Queens community, as well as 90,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. The space will be known as the Far Rockaway Village.
“It’s been a long wait for economic progress in Downtown Far Rockaway, which is why today’s news is a victory for residents, business owners and community leaders,” Richards said. “We’ve laid the groundwork for success and now we must continue to work to ensure this project moves forward rapidly while serving the community’s needs for affordability, quality retail and good jobs.”
According to the councilman’s office, the plans were filed with the city’s Department of Buildings earlier this week to reactivate a part of the shopping center property. Richards clarified that further action would have to be taken in the future to realize the vision for Far Rockaway Village. He projected that the first phase of the concept would be completed by 2021.
The plans would be the latest in Richards’ long term goals for the revitalization of Far Rockaway. The neighborhood, which has languished due to negligence, is finally receiving attention from the city. In 2016, the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio invested a combined $288 million into bring housing, shopping, business opportunities, transportation and infrastructure fixes, arts programs and more to the neighborhood.
Richards has worked alongside his colleagues in government—including state Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park) and Assembly members Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach) and Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway)—to make strides in this process.
“The future Far Rockaway Village will be an amazing addition to the area and will offer so many of the amenities that are so sorely needed in this part of the district,” Sanders said. “This is only the beginning and I look forward to the future enhancement of a more vibrant Far Rockaway.”
Titus mentioned the type of opportunities that would be available for constituents if the proposal moves forward.
“The rebuilding of the area with modern retail and commercial buildings will create much needed jobs and spur economic growth which will greatly benefit those of us who call Far Rockaway home,” Titus said.
Community Board 14 has been supportive of initiatives related to the rebirth of Downtown Far Rockaway.
The board voted in favor of the plan as long as certain amenities—including the improvement of zoned schools, parks, parking and upgrades to existing infrastructure—be made priorities to benefit longtime residents. CB 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said that he supports Richards’ plans for the long abandon shopping center.
“[The shopping center’s] current state has stifled economic and job growth, kept down property values, costing the city millions in lost tax dollars,” Gaska said. “If government and the community continue to work together as the project moves from phase to phase, the renaissance of the Downtown Far Rockaway area will become the success that we believe it can be and more importantly, what this area desperately needs.”