QUEENS, NY—The de Blasio Administration and Council Member Donovan Richards today announced that the Downtown Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project has been approved by the New York City Council, the final necessary vote of the City’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process.
This marks the de Blasio Administration’s second neighborhood rezoning to be approved by New York City Council, along with the East New York Neighborhood Plan.
The interagency project will revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway with the neighborhood’s first rezoning since 1961 and $288 million of investments to bring new commercial space and small business support, affordable housing options, open space, new connectivity to transit, improved infrastructure, and community facilities to the area.
“The de Blasio Administration is investing big in Downtown Far Rockaway. After hearing the community’s vision for their neighborhood, City agencies and local elected officials came together to deliver a transformative plan that’s going to drive economic opportunity, create affordable housing, unlock open space, improve infrastructure, and make Downtown Far Rockaway a better place to live,” said NYCEDC President and CEO James Patchett. “I want to thank Council Member Richards for his leadership in driving this historic investment forward, and to HPD, DCP, and all of our partner agencies who never wavered on their commitment to revitalize this neighborhood.”
“Today, we begin the journey of building on the progress we have made over the past four years, by infusing hundreds of millions of dollars into infrastructure, quality jobs, parks, streetscape, transit improvements, and both community facility and open space,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “These investments will ensure that Far Rockaway benefits from the amenities that so many other communities in our city enjoy. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio, EDC, HPD, DCP, Speaker Mark-Viverito, the Council Land Use staff and all of the other agencies involved in these negotiations.”
"What a great day to be a part of. I grew up in Far Rockaway, and I can tell you we’ve needed this kind of structural change to our zoning for the longest time. It’s also very much a team success. At the head of that team, Council Member Donovan Richards has taken a passionate, patient and inclusive approach to leadership, making real progress by inviting the whole community to the table. The Administration has given a gazillion presentations, taken the time to break everything down and incorporated our feedback, which we appreciate. And the folks who stood up and got involved – you made sure revitalization not only happened, but was sustainable, taking every contingency into account,” said Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato.
“This plan represents the promise of what we can achieve when we come together to ensure that our neighborhoods are vibrant places of opportunity for current and future residents. Working across agencies, in lockstep with the community, we’ve created a blueprint for the future of Downtown Far Rockaway as a dynamic hub for the region, with strategies to develop and safeguard affordable housing, protect tenants, improve infrastructure, and grow the local economy,” said Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “I want to thank Councilmember Donovan Richards for his visionary leadership and my colleagues across city government for their commitment to ensuring Downtown Far Rockaway continues to thrive for generations to come."
“City Planning is pleased to be part of this multi-agency initiative, which was so ably spearheaded by Councilmember Donovan Richards. The initiative will bring much-needed affordable housing, economic development and city resources to a neighborhood that has suffered from disinvestment for many, many years. While the fortunes of this community have gone up and down over the decades, I’m confident that with the City Council’s approval, Downtown Far Rockaway will once again be on the rise,” said Marisa Lago, Chair of the City Planning Commission.
This comprehensive plan involves efforts from a range of City agencies, including the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC); Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD); Department of Transportation (DOT); Department of Small Business Services (SBS); Department of City Planning (DCP); Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR); Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA); and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).
Today’s approved plan was developed based on community recommendations and contain more than $288 million in Rockaway investments, including federal and private funding, with the City committing more than $126 million in new funding.
Highlights of Far Rockaway investments include:
- Building a new park on the site of a vacant, City-owned lot.
- Piloting a ferry service shuttle from Downtown Far Rockaway to the current NYC Ferry landing at Beach 108th Street.
- Building a new Queens Public Library branch at the corner of Mott and Central Avenues.
- Upgrading sewer infrastructure, expanding sidewalks, and creating new public plazas.
- Making 100% of new housing built on public land affordable, and setting aside new units that could be created on the Urban Renewal Area for extremely low and very low income households.
- Providing free legal services for Rockaway residents facing unlawful evictions and tenant harassment.
- Supporting existing businesses through free legal services and other business outreach efforts.
- Investing $10 million in upgrades to existing schools’ playgrounds, libraries, auditoriums, and science labs, and securing a portion of the Urban Renewal Area for the SCA to provide a new school if needed as the neighborhood grows.
- Grants for cultural organizations and increased arts programing.
- Installing real-time bus arrival displays at key bus stops.
“With this new park at Nameoke Avenue and improvements at Redfern and Bayswater, never before have our parks in this neighborhood seen such substantial influx of funding at one time,” said NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, FAICP. “This funding will allow us to plan resilient and sustainable parks, public spaces, and recreational amenities and build parks for present and future generations.”
“The Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project will make significant investments in the Far Rockaway community, including its small businesses,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “This project will bring new commercial space and small business support to the area, and I am proud to back this plan. I congratulate Council Member Donovan Richards, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and all of the government and community partners for making this happen.”
“DOT is proud to be part of this multi-agency effort to improve infrastructure, transportation and quality of life in the Rockaways,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. "From new plazas to new Select Bus Service, this great community should be seeing positive transportation changes as soon as this year -- and then for years to come. Congratulations to Council Member Richards for his leadership on this project."
“DEP is proud to support Council Member Richards and the redevelopment of Downtown Far Rockaway,” said DEP Acting Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “We will work to improve the infrastructure that will support so many other important quality of life improvements for the neighborhood.”
“Far Rockaway is home to a creative community as vibrant as the neighborhood itself, and we’re proud to work with partner agencies, area leaders, and residents to expand support for cultural programming that engages locals and attracts visitors,” said Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl.
“The board is excited that this project has the potential to revitalize the downtown Far Rockaway area. We believe over the next 5-10 years exciting things will happen,” said Jonathan Gaska, District Manager, Queens Community Board 14.
“The Downtown Far Rockaway Development Plan represents a major shift from previous administrations' lack of capital investment in areas such as Far Rockaway. I applaud Mayor de Blasio, the City Council, the Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group and our community champion, City Councilman Donovan Richards, Jr. for having the fortitude to support this community-driven plan that truly reflects the majority of community stakeholders who participated in the year-long planning process. It seems only equitable that those who have voiced their pleas for revitalizing Downtown Far Rockaway for so many decades should be the voices that we listen to the loudest - in my opinion the Downtown Far Rockaway Redevelopment Plan got it right,” said Kevin Alexander, RDRC President & CEO.
“The JCCRP believes the Rockaway Redevelopment project will transform our downtown area and will provide safe residential housing for all while opening up opportunities for small businesses to flourish. The planned expansion of our transportation infrastructure will ease the burden for hundreds of commuters who live in Far Rockaway,” said Moshe Brandsdorfer, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Council of the Rockaway Peninsula (JCCRP).
“This vital redevelopment will bring enormous resources to the Rockaways and St. John's is proud to work in collaboration with Councilmember Donovan Richards, NYCEDC and the Far Rockaway community to ensure a successful completion,” said Gerard M. Walsh, CEO, St. John's Episcopal Hospital.
“Our library in Far Rockaway is a vital part of the community and inspires individuals to learn, discover and grow,” said Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “We are grateful to Mayor de Blasio and the City of New York for the opportunity to contribute to the revitalization this rezoning will bring to Far Rockaway.”
The Downtown Far Rockaway Redevelopment Project was developed based on the vision of the Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group —a team of local stakeholders convened by Councilman Donovan Richards in 2015—to develop a set of goals and recommendations to support the revitalization of the neighborhood.
The Downtown Far Rockaway Working Group received input from over one hundred community members and delivered their recommendations to Mayor de Blasio in February 2016, asking that the City activate long-vacant sites, increase access to housing and retail opportunities in the neighborhood, and help the area realize its potential as the commercial hub of the peninsula.
New York City Economic Development Corporation creates shared prosperity across New York City’s five boroughs by strengthening neighborhoods and creating good jobs. NYCEDC works with and for communities to provide them with the resources they need to thrive, and we invest in projects that increase sustainability, support job growth, develop talent, and spark innovation to strengthen the City’s competitive advantage. To learn more about our work and initiatives, please visit us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.