ARVERNE — Former congressman and one time mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner is in the early stages of opening a restaurant on Rockaway — but his mission isn't just about the food.
Weiner served as the congressman for a portion of the peninsula from 1998 before resigning due to a sexting scandal in 2011, and visited Rockaway multiple times while running for mayor last summer.
Now he's shifted focus back to the region, launching the Rockaway Restoration Kitchen, a non-profit that will serve as a training center for unemployed New Yorkers while also providing healthy food in neighborhoods he called "food deserts."
Weiner told DNAinfo New York that he's "trying to tackle three challenges, plus doing something nice in a part of the city that's had some tough luck."
"Large parts of the peninsula, particularly when you go further east, are food deserts," he said.
He said the kitchen will serve farm fresh food while also giving locals much-needed restaurant experience — in what could be the first step towards a well-paying career, he said.
"There's enormous numbers of pretty good paying jobs in the culinary food service business available because people don't have the requisite kitchen experience to begin working in a real kitchen," he said.
The plan — which was first reported by the Rockaway Times — is still in the prep stages.
Weiner put up a listing on Idealist.org for an executive director for the job, and he is still raising funds.
And while he listed the address for the Arverne View apartments on Beach 57th on the website, he said a deal isn't set and he's still looking at spaces.
Weiner said he thought about possibly opening up at Beach 116th Street in Rockaway Park, and is open to anywhere.
"We're looking at the whole peninsula, where we can both do the most good and do the best business," he said.
He's been working on the project with Janet Davas, who created Liberty's Kitchen, a nonprofit and social service organization that provides job training and culinary experience to young people in New Orleans.
"She's a remarkable woman. You realize pretty quickly that things like this don't happen unless you have really intense committed people," Weiner said, adding that he saw many similarities between New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Rockaway peninsula after Hurricane Sandy, he said.
"The sense of geographic isolation, also the pure opportunity that the crisis created to go back and figure out how to solve some of the underlying problems," are just a few of the commonalities between the two regions, he said.
But while the Rockaways' isolation, minimal public transportation and other challenges make it "a monument to bad civic planning," Weiner said he believes the peninsula is having a "moment" right now that could point the area in the right direction.
"Something seems to be happening this time. If we can capture that, we can actually do something right by the neighborhood," he said.