1999-10-16 / Front Page

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

New Life For Courthouse

Belle Harbor resident and real estate developer, Martin Ain (left), stands with Keyspan Energy’s Bob Keller, regional director of development, in front of the courthouse.

By John McLoughlin

More than 30 years have gone by since the courthouse on Beach 92 street and Beach Channel drive was open for public use. That might change in the near future, as the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) reviews proposals for the property from several developers.

After New York City consolidated the court system in the 1960’s, the courthouse was closed. The doors were firmly shut after a civic association used the property for a playhouse for a few years after that. Since then, the large gray structure has become an eyesore, with weeds and wild grass growing around the property.

About three years ago, the City of New York decided to place the courthouse on the auction list, which immediately set off alarms for many community activists. With fears that the courthouse would be used for housing purposes or torn down and something "unwanted" replacing it, the community immediately worked to have the property removed from the list.

Martin Ain, a Belle Harbor resident and real estate developer, went to the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corp. with his plans for the courthouse, and within time a meeting was arranged with Borough President Claire Shulman. Ain, along with Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, and Rockaway businessmen Dan Tubridy and Vincent O’Connor, urged Shulman to take the courthouse off the auction list, which she did.

Soon the city placed zoning restrictions on the property, stating that future development could not include an overnight sleeping facility or be used for religious purposes. The restrictions also called for the courthouse remaining intact.

EDC issued a Request For Proposal (RFP), which combined the courthouse with other properties around the city, and began showing the site to developers six months ago. A meeting was held by EDC for developers and, according to an EDC spokesperson, "strong interest" was shown in the courthouse.

Final RFP’s were submitted in September, and EDC expects to make a decision in a few months.

Ain, who submitted his own RFP, said "good proposals have come in--for commercial purposes." He made it clear that "only qualified developers with financial capabilities are being considered."

Even if EDC tosses the other proposals, Ain said he is "standing ready to do the deal."

Ain hopes to put his energy toward other parts of the community. He is in contract at the present time for a parcel of land near Beach Channel High School, is "looking into" property on the waterfront between Beach 116 street and Beach Channel High School and the LILCO property on Beach 108 street and Beach Channel drive, and has spoken with Ed Johnson of Congressman Meeks’ office about commercial activities off the waterfront in Arverne.

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