2002-12-07 / Letters

Arverne: Renewal Or Exodus

Arverne: Renewal Or Exodus

Dear Editor;

A few years ago when the rejuvenation of Arverne was announced, residents of Far Rockaway were very excited about the project. The younger generation had visions of affordable homes, new jobs, new schools, and improved transportation.

On the other hand the older generation had dreams of casinos and seaside resorts. My husband who is 65 years old was very skeptical. When he saw the plans for the project, he snorted, "This Arverne renewal is a bunch of croc; all these guys are going to do is build expensive homes, drive the poor people out, and overcrowd the neighborhood. The only people who are going to benefit from this project are the developers."

I hate to say it, but he was right. Instead of creating affordable homes, the project has only driven up the prices of homes in the neighborhood and cause friction between the government and homeowners. Before the Arverne renewal project began, the average cost of a two family home in Far Rockaway, was $174,000. Today the price of a two family home has risen to $330,000. Because of stagnating income and recent lay-offs the residents in the neighborhood will not be able to afford to buy the new homes.

Even middle-income families are being priced out of the neighborhood. Besides pushing up the prices of houses, the project has also had a negative impact on rental apartments. The price of a two-bedroom apartment around here has gone from $800 to $1000.00 per month. Instead of families donating the usual 25 percent of their paychecks towards rent, they are now allotting more than half of their salaries towards housing (no wonder there are so many residents frequenting the pantries and soup kitchens in the neighborhood).

One mother of three who I spoke with said, "even with housing assistance it is impossible to find a decent apartment around here, landlords will only rent to section 8 tenants if they cannot find other tenants to fill their apartments. I guess we will be seeing more homeless families in the Rockaways."

Another benefit the community was supposed to reap from this project was new jobs. Besides creating a few jobs for some construction workers and painters, the only people who are benefiting from this project are the builders, the developers, the real estate agents and a few homeowners. While the developers and builders are hastily throwing houses together, the real estate and mortgage brokers are cashing in on the sales. A few enterprising homeowners are doing cosmetic repairs (like fixing the siding or painting their houses) and charging the same prices as the new houses.

Who can blame them? The older houses are worth more than the new houses that are being hastily thrown together. At least in the older houses you do not feel like sardines in a can----you have bigger bedrooms, a back and front yard (maybe space for a garden), and in most case a rental apartment to defray the cost of the mortgage.

Presently, there are not enough schools available for our children in the Rockaways. They have to be bused to other schools or take the trains into Brooklyn or Manhattan to attend school. Since we cannot provide for the children in the neighborhood, how are we going to accommodate the additional families we are bringing into the Rockaways?

I read in The Wave recently that one of the developers would build a new temple to attract new homeowners to the neighborhood. It would be nice if he would build a school to accommodate the new children who will be living in these houses.

The renewal project has not improved our transportation, our streets are still bumpy and filled with potholes, and we are still taking shuttle buses to Rockaway Blvd, to catch a train to the city. It is impossible to get to work or return home on time. Our employers are docking our pay for being late and our baby-sitters are charging us for over-time.

So what has Arverne Renewal done for the Rockaways? Besides creating a few jobs, it has destroyed the landscapes and wildlife (I use to encounter wild bunnies and pheasants on my daily walk-not anymore), taken away our recreation (fishing spots are quickly diminishing), left us with potholes, traffic congestion, and angered the residents of Beach 69. Street. If we let them take the property of these people to create new drainage, what will they do next? I guess they will target some other homeowners' property for another project. After all this is done the only thing left for them to do is to privatize our beaches.

CATHERINE GRIFFITH


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