FAR ROCKAWAY — Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a whopping $91 million investment in downtown Far Rockaway in his State of the City speech Thursday night, including public and private investment for the long-neglected area.
The money, which will improve a recreation center, fix up the transit hub and the neighborhood's streets, is one of the most significant investments for Far Rockaway in years.
The announcement comes after city agencies have aggressively engaged the neighborhood in plans for the future, including through Department of Transportation workshops and forums to help residents re-imagine its busy downtown.
Councilman Donovan Richards thanked the mayor on Thursday for helping to secure the millions for his district.
“This historic investment in Downtown Far Rockaway is a credit to the hard work of the residents of Far Rockaway were came together to create a community-led vision for the future of this community that has been ignored for more than 40 years,” he said.
The Far Rockaway Task Force, which was made up of the area's elected officials, representatives from community groups and business owners, sent the mayor a list of recommendations for the area on Feb. 1.
That letter included improvements to the shopping center, the development of more community meeting spaces, developing vacant land near St. John's Episcopal Hospital and building more community space.
Many of the suggestions were included in the plans for the $91 million, including an overhaul for the Sorrentino Recreation Center, on Cornaga Avenue and upgrades to the A train and LIRR transit hubs, a popular route for city and Nassau county bus routes.
A planning meeting in Far Rockaway in November, 2015 to generate ideas for the future. (DNAinfo/Katie Honan)
Streets along downtown Far Rockaway will get improved lighting and street redesign, making it more attractive to pedestrians. The city will also issue a request for proposals to develop a "long underutilized" Department of Transportation lot.
And there will be major development of the Thriftway shopping center, which has been nearly empty for decades.
That shopping center is owned by Queens real estate mogul Rita Stark, who has kept it, and other properties around the borough, empty for years.
De Blasio announced the full scope of the plans Thursday in The Bronx for his annual speech on the city, saying they plan to bring "mixed-income housing, retail and community facilities" to the area.
The peninsula has struggled to gain economic footing over the last few decades.
Over the summer, the opening of a Dunkin' Donuts — the first new business in 30 years — was cheered by Richards and other officials as a sign of good things to come.
The opening "is the beginning of the revitalization for downtown Far Rockaway," Richards said in August.
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who represents the area, said the funds will provide much-needed improvements to the area.
"The city has been meeting with the community over the last few months and I'm happy to see the mayor putting the money where his mouth is," he said.