2002-03-30 / Front Page

New Life For Old Courthouse

By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

The old courthouse on Beach 92 Street and Beach Channel Drive, after being abandoned for more than 30 years, has been reportedly purchased by a developer who plans to revitalize it as an office building.

The members of Community Board 14, at a recent meeting, approved the plan by a vote of 30-0.

The board is very excited about this project," says board district manager Jonathan Gaska. "It has been a monument to city neglect for forty years and now it will become part of Rockaway’s revitalization."

According to Michael Carey, the president of the New York City Development Corporation, the city’s Request for Proposal (RFP) received a number of responses, but that the city chose Wallace LLC, a limited liability company jointly owned by the Schwartz and Kaufman Family Trusts, which are controlled respectively by Ira Schwartz and Uri Kaufman.

"Both Kaufman and Schwartz have successfully completed numerous office, retail and residential development projects throughout the New York City area, many of them involved with the purchase and rehabilitation of distressed assets," Carey says.

The city first opened the courthouse in 1932. In the early 1960’s, the city centralized its courts in Jamaica and the Rockaway courthouse was closed. For several years during the 1970’s it was utilized by a cultural and theatrical group, but it again fell into disuse due to the fiscal crisis of that decade.

Wallace LLC’s plan includes a 16,000 square-foot office building. Parking spots will be developed in the courthouse’s backyard, which fronts on Beach 90 Street.

Wallace LLC will move its own offices from Manhattan to the location, and it hopes to attract some local politicians and a day care center as tenants.

"This will become a trophy development for us," says Uri Kaufman, one of the developers. "I passed it many times coming from the Cross Bay Bridge, and I always thought that it was one of the landmark buildings in Rockaway."

The exterior façade of the building, which has become something of an historic landmark in the minds of many Rockaway residents, will be retained under the new plan.

The purchase price is $125,000, but it is expected that the developers will have to spend from $1.5 to $2 million in order to refurbish the building before it can get a certificate of occupancy.

The plan now goes to the Borough Board and the Economic Development Committee, both of which are expected to give it quick approval. Then, the city council has to vote on the proposal.

"We expect to have all the necessary approvals by June 30 of this year," Kaufman told The Wave. We then hope to be at work by September and to have tenants in the building six months after that."

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