By Archana Ravi
After four decades of botched attempts to engage the once-thriving central portion of the Rockaway peninsula, the barren coastland seems to be on the brink of a promising enterprise.
The Arverne-by-the-Sea project, a joint proposal by Benjamin Development and The Beechwood Organization, is currently underway. The project foresees a mix of 2,300 residential units on a 117-acre site along the coastland of Rockaway. The plan includes a series of "walkable" neighborhoods composed of one- and two-family homes, mid-rise condominiums, and rentals. Aside from housing, Arverne-by-the-Sea will include 200,000 square feet of retail stores, a day-care center, a 30,000 square foot community center, and 10 acres of new parkland.
The groundbreaking, on July 11th, set off the initial phase of development, and also sparked the interest of Rockaway residents. According to the developers, a thousand names of potential homebuyers have been recorded since the groundbreaking.
So how do we know that Arverne-by-the-Sea won't fall in line with past development failures in Arverne? Less Lerner, a representative of The Beechwood Organization, told the Wave, "Previous housing plans had high densities. The backbone of Arverne-by-the-Sea is 2-family housing. This is the most successful home ownership opportunity available today."
Aside from accommodating population size, the new project will also cater to community needs. When designing Arverne-by-the-Sea the developers, along with the City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), solicited community input from the Community Board. Examples of residents' suggestions include maintaining a low-density community and having accessible public transportation. Peter Florey of Benjamin Development says, "It is important that we reach out and continue a dialogue with the community."
Maintaining a no-barrier, reciprocal relationship between Rockaway and Arverne-by-the-Sea may prove to be beneficial to both communities. When asked about retail plans for Arverne-by-the-Sea, Florey said, "It is only in our interest to encourage the best retail while keeping a balance between it and the existing retail in the community." Arverne-by-the-Sea will include two kinds of retail stores; a neighborhood shopping center including a grocery store, movie theater, etc., and a retail corridor called â018Ocean Way'. This will be a promenade lined with restaurants and shops, extending from the train station to the Ocean.
In addition to improving commercialism in Rockaway, the new project will also create more jobs for Rockaway people. The developers foresee three to four hundred construction jobs and four hundred permanent jobs in retail to accommodate the 200,000 square feet of retail space.
While Arverne-by-the-Sea will maintain a neighbor-friendly demeanor, it will also be an environmentally conscious community. "We are using only environmentally-friendly construction materials", says Florey. "We are reducing construction debris and increasing green area with a 30-acre park set aside for passive recreational use for preserving natural wildlife."
Developers are hoping that homebuyers will recognize the uniqueness of Arverne-by-the-Sea in that it's a brand new New York City development with diverse housing, and it is located on the coast. The project will take approximately four or five years to complete.