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Plan Released for Long-Awaited Revitalization of Downtown Far Rockaway

By Katie Honan | August 19, 2016 3:43pm | Updated on August 22, 2016 8:49am
The "roadmap for action" identifies needs within the economically-depressed area, officials said. 
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DNAinfo/Katie Honan

FAR ROCKAWAY — The city released a 25-point "roadmap for action" to revitalize downtown Far Rockaway, including steps to develop affordable housing and create more open space.

Councilman Donovan Richards, a force behind the project, declared that he was "ready to get to work" at the official announcement at a new plaza on Beach 20th, near the Mott Avenue subway.

"Today this coalition makes good on the promise to restore downtown Far Rockaway back to the Mecca it once was more than 30 years ago," he said.

"Downtown Far Rockaway was once a vibrant commercial beachfront business district that attracted shoppers from Nassau, the Rockaways and across the city."

While many administrations promised change and investment, the "bounced checks of promises" contributed to the neighborhood's decline, he said.

The city was finally paying out on its "moral" and economic debt to the residents, he said, with a promise of $91 million announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio at his State of the City address this year

Richards, along with the Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group made up of other elected officials and stakeholders, identified the biggest challenges to the area.

"The Roadmap for Action will unlock the downtown's full potential as a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood," said Maria Torres-Springer, the Economic Development Corporation's president. 

Carl Weisbrod, the chairman of the City Planning Commission, said the Far Rockaway plan "is the one that has been the most collaborative among agencies."

"We are looking at the zoning in this area, it pretty much has been static for the last 55 years and it's a reflection I think of need, or the reality, that what should have been happening in this area has not been happening," he said.

Zoning is a tool and a "catalyst" for change — and their objective is to reactivate the downtown shopping area, he added.


The multi-prong approach to revitalizing the area is still in its earliest stages, but ideas include upgrading community centers, finding ways to attract more businesses, installing new benches and more.

There will also be major infrastructure improvements like new storm sewers and catch basins.

The biggest challenge will likely come from rezoning — but Richards said he's ready to take on any opposition to the plan. 

"There's always going to be some sensitivity around parking, that's something we've heard...there may be questions around density, there may be questions around other needs that the community has," he said.

But his goal was to move forward in a part of the city that has long been neglected. 

"If there's opposition to it, guess what? I'm prepared to live with that. I would rather not be elected than to let this place remain the way that it is."


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