Failing Grade For Local Training Center?
By Howard Schwach
With much fanfare and publicity a number of local politicians and other officials met in front of the dilapidated building at 6200 Beach Channel Drive to announce that one day that building would become a Rockaway triple-threat advantage: a new home for the Addabbo Family Health Center; an training center for aviation-related jobs run by the Academy for Aeronautics and a state of the art health careers training center run by York College.
The lead on the front page story run by The Wave at that time said, "If plans coalesce and the promised money becomes available, Rockaway will soon have a state of the art training facility that will prepare young residents for careers in the airline industry and in health care.
Those Rockaway dreams, however, may soon be at an end. It is becoming clear that the plans have not coalesced and much of the money that the plan depended on will not become available.
The Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC) is both the lead agency in the development of the building and a partner in its operation.
"We had intended to do both the development of the new space for Addabbo Health and the inclusion of the school-related facilities at the same time, but the plan will now be done in two phases," Curtis Archer, the executive director of the RDRC told The Wave this week. "There is still and educational component planned for the project, but that will now become Phase II and will be done after the Addabbo portion of the plan is implemented."
According to Archer, the plan to include both the Academy of Aeronautics and York College in the plan are "not dead," but that there are problems with both schools.
"Aeronautics was originally on board for 11,000 square feet in the new 6200 BCD," Archer says. "After September 11, however, the school, like aviation in general, took a hit and they wanted to reduce their commitment to 4,000 square feet. They also could not commit to more than a five year lease on the footage, something that we really can’t do."
As for York College, Archer says that they are trying to secure letters of commitment from the City University of New York (CUNY), the parent organization for York College.
"There was not a very good relationship between York and CUNY under the old president," Archer admits. "Now, however, Matt Goldstein wants a CUNY presence in Rockaway, so perhaps it will get done."
The RDRC has brought in an organization to do a study that will hopefully show a great demand for training facilities in Rockaway and that the demand will show CUNY the need as well.
"If it’s not CUNY in that space, it will be somebody else," Archer says. "We will shop it around and find somebody like Apex Tech or one of the other private training schools."
Meanwhile, David Oxley, the project manager for 6200 BCd, says that his design group is hard at work on the schematic for the property.
He expects that to be ready by the end of the year, or perhaps January at the latest.
"There is still an educational component of two tenants planned for the site," Oxley told The Wave this week.
"We’ll know more in January about where this is going," he says. "There is a series of steps that have to be taken, permits to get. This takes some time, but we are going to move ahead aggressively, and we don’t anticipate any roadblocks.
Local experts, however, are not as optimistic.
York College is developing an aviation institute of its own," says one local civic activist who asked to remain anonymous. "Why would they be duplicating one of the programs that would be run in Rockaway if they were still interested in coming to Rockaway?"
He points out that the Port Authority, the same agency that was to fund the Rockaway program, is funding the new program at York.
A spokesperson for the PA said that the York program would provide "Queens residents with the opportunity to attend the institute and to train for careers in the aviation field."
Almost those exact words were used by PA President Neil Levin as he passed a $500 thousand "check" to the RDRC for its facility last August.
The picture that accompanies this story was taken at that time. Both Assemblywoman Pauline Cummings, one of the real driving forces behind the project and Neil Levin, have died since the picture was taken – Levin in the World Trade Center and Cummings from an illness.
There are many in the community who believe that the loss of the two major proponents of the program has assisted its possible demise.
If the program dies, it might well be a blow to Rockaway’s hopes for revitalization.
"Addabbo has turned itself around," says John Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14. "The community needs this project. Many of Rockaway’s young people need the training it will provide. We can only hope that it comes to fruition."