FAR ROCKAWAY, NY—Deputy Mayor Vicki Been and Council Member Donovan Richards joined with numerous City agencies and elected officials today to break ground on a $139 million project that will transform and revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway, bringing new streets with new pedestrian space, landscaping and green infrastructure plus improved stormwater drainage to an area of Queens that has not seen large infrastructure investments in decades.
“This project exemplifies our commitment to investing in neighborhoods that haven’t seen infrastructure improvements in decades,” said Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Vicki Been. “Building on years of collaboration with the community and Councilmember Richards, today we deliver on this administration’s most significant investment to date in downtown Far Rockaway, to support both the neighborhood’s current needs and future growth, with new streets, sidewalks, open space, utilities, and green infrastructure.”
“This historic $139 million investment in Downtown Far Rockaway’s infrastructure is a critical component for the future success of our community,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “These long overdue investments will bring new streetscapes, plaza space, green infrastructure and improved stormwater drainage that will ensure a more pedestrian friendly Far Rockaway that can better manage future storms while also beautifying the commercial corridors and the transportation hub of the peninsula. I’d like to thank Mayor de Blasio, Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, DEP Commissioner Sapienza, DOT Commissioner Trottenberg and DDC Commissioner Grillo for their commitment to the Far Rockaway community.”
The project, will begin construction next week and is scheduled to take three years to complete, is designed to comprehensively reinvigorate a neighborhood that was recently rezoned to allow for more housing, increased economic opportunity and better transportation options. Work will take place in an area of roughly 25 blocks, centered around the local business district and transportation hub at Mott and Central avenues, where a new library is already under construction. The project was designed and phased to closely align with over 2,000 affordable housing units under construction and planned over several developments.
Streets throughout the downtown area will be completely rebuilt and in many cases realigned to ease the flow of traffic and enhance pedestrian safety in conjunction with Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero goals. About 7,000 feet of new curbs will be installed along with more than 83,000 square feet of new concrete sidewalks. The landscape will be further transformed with new green infrastructure including rain gardens to help with the natural absorption of stormwater and other measures to minimize impacts on nearby wetlands and Jamaica Bay.
Work will be performed in two phases of 21 months and then 13 months, beginning with new storm sewers near Horton Avenue. More than two miles (~11,000 feet) of new storm sewers ranging in size from 12 inches in diameter up to 13.5 feet high by 4.5 feet wide will eventually be installed to improve local drainage. More than 120 new catch basins will be installed to capture storm water and direct it to the new storm sewers.
The project will also upgrade about 11,000 feet of existing sanitary sewers with new pipes ranging from 10 to 36 inches in diameter and replace about 10,000 feet of aging water mains with new pipes from 8 to 20 inches in diameter. At least 39 new fire hydrants will be installed to enhance local fire protection. Several private utility companies are also contributing to the project cost in order for the City’s contractor to relocate or upgrade their equipment in the area.
Also planned for the Phase 1 area is a new pedestrian plaza spanning from Beach 21st to Beach 22nd streets, adjacent to the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue subway station. The new plaza will cover about 15,000 square feet – or more than one-third of an acre – and will include a stage for events, benches and other seating, trees and planters, tables and chairs, a water fountain, bike racks, wayfinding signage and an automated public toilet, all set above a distinctive paving pattern on the ground.
This multi-agency effort was informed by the community-driven Downtown Far Rockaway Roadmap for Action (PDF). The Roadmap for Action included public events, meetings and open houses in the eastern peninsula, and guides City investment in the area. It includes initiatives to identify new opportunities for mixed-income housing; improve transportation infrastructure and public space; strengthen commercial corridors, resources for small businesses and new connections to jobs; and expand community services and cultural assets. A former DOT Municipal Parking Lot plays a central role in the neighborhood’s transformation as the future site of affordable housing, new retail and community space for residents and the new plaza.
“DEP is making significant investments and upgrades to our infrastructure in Downtown Far Rockaway, including new storm sewers and rain gardens to help alleviate street flooding and protect nearby wetlands. DEP looks forward to partnering with DOT, DDC, EDC and other City agencies as we take on this large scale reconstruction project,” said NYC Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza. “I also want to thank Council Member Donovan Richards for his advocacy and funding contribution as we work to improve the quality of life for residents and area businesses. Together, we will make Downtown Far Rockaway a more resilient neighborhood.”
“All of us at DOT are proud to be a part of a once-in-a-generation project to transform Far Rockaway’s entire Downtown area,” said NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “This project will not only enhance pedestrian safety and mobility, but will also catalyze new housing construction and improve the area’s ability to manage stormwater. We of course thank Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Richards for their leadership, but also acknowledge our agency partners at DDC, DEP and EDC and the countless other community stakeholders who have been deeply involved in the comprehensive planning and design for the exciting project now getting underway.”
“Today’s groundbreaking is a major win for Downtown Far Rockaway,” said NYC Economic Development Corporation Executive Vice President and COO Rachel Loeb.” This streetscape project will deliver a new public plaza, expanded sidewalks, sewers upgrades and improved lighting to serve existing residents and businesses while spurring economic growth. I want to thank the Deputy Mayor Vicki Been, our agency partners and local elected officials for their support and commitment to bringing this project to fruition.”
“This very large project is going to have a transformational effect on Far Rockaway, bringing better streets and better infrastructure to a community that could really benefit from this type of investment,” said NYC Department of Design and Construction Commissioner Lorraine Grillo. “A project of this scale would normally take seven years to complete, but we’re planning to finish it in three years. I want to thank Council Member Richards for his leadership; DEP, DOT, EDC and everyone who’s been involved in the planning and design; and the DDC project team that’s going to complete this project on an accelerated schedule.”
“This plan will help Downtown Rockaway thrive by addressing so many of the issues that have held the community back,” said State Senator James Sanders Jr. “The time for tackling the crumbling roadways and persistent flooding is long overdue, but thanks to the collective efforts of my colleagues in government and numerous city agencies, we are going to see some progress. Rockaway has so much potential and now with new infrastructure, pedestrian-friendly spaces, gardens and greenery, and improved storm water drainage, this community will have the opportunity to shine like the jewel of Queens that it is.”
“Today is an exciting day! Being born and raised in Far Rockaway I can tell you this is an area in desperate need of revitalization. After years of persistent advocacy and work from community stakeholders we are finally getting the investment we so desperately need and deserve,” Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato said. “I thank Council Member Donovan Richards for all his hard work for taking the lead with the City agencies to make these significant improvements to the infrastructure in Far Rockaway.”
To manage the needs of residents and businesses during construction, DDC has two Community Construction Liaisons (CCL) assigned to the project who will work on-site to keep the neighborhood apprised of construction progress, coordinate street closures and utility shutoff and arrange special requests such as deliveries to local homes and businesses.
Construction phasing has been coordinated closely with DOT, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE) the Police Department (NYPD) and adjacent private developments so that it can continue seven-days-a-week in certain areas to reduce construction duration and minimize impact to the community. Continuous access will be maintained to the area’s two commuter train stations, while the seven bus routes that traverse the construction zone will be detoured periodically. The project’s Traffic Maintenance Plan calls for variable signage and traffic enforcement agents, and for coordination of detours and street closures to maintain emergency vehicle access and garbage pickups.
The project is being managed by the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) for the NYC Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT). Funding is from the City ($126.7 million), from private utilities ($6.7 million), from federal HUD and highway funds ($5.4 million) and from the office of Council Member Donovan Richards ($499,000).
The project was designed in-house at DDC in conjunction with W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of Brooklyn, and received the Award for Excellence in Design from the NYC Public Design Commission in 2017.
The project was bid using the joint bidding method of contracting, a more efficient contracting process that incorporates City work and private utility work in one bid package and contract. The general contractor is Restani Construction Corp. of Astoria and engineering services will be by HNTB Corporation. The City has set goals for the project for awards to Minority- and Women-Owned Businesses Enterprises (M/WBEs) of 15 percent to women-owned businesses and 15 percent to minority-owned businesses.
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.