2004-03-12 / Front Page

Back To Square One For Rockaway Courthouse

By Henrick Karoliszyn
Back To Square One For Rockaway Courthouse By Henrick Karoliszyn

The future of the Rockaway Courthouse is in the hands of the New York City Economic Devel opment Corporation, (EDC) after developers failed to meet the March 9 deadline to hand in their proposal, according to a spokesperson for the Queens Borough President’s office.

The spokesperson said the EDC would look for alternative plans to develop the former house of justice.

According to the President of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association, Dolores Orr, the developers have yet to follow through on their proposal adding, "The developers have not been in contact with us for over a year."

In late February of 2002, developers, Uri Kaufman and Ira Schwartz, who head the Wallace Limited Liability Company, jointly owned by the Schwartz and Kaufman Family Trusts, sent a Request For Proposal (RFP) for the courthouse at a price of $125,000, adding $1.5 to $2 million to renovate the building.

Kaufman and Schwartz had successfully completed retail and residential development projects throu gh out the New York area in the past and many involved the purchase and rehabilitation of distressed assets, as President of the EDC, Michael G. Carey indicated during the time of proposal.

District Manager Jonathan Gaska and Community Board 14 voted 30-0 in favor of the project when the proposal was sent out. As time has gone on, however, it just seemed less likely that the developers would act on their initial plans.

"The past developers did not pull through," Gaska said.

The courthouse, which has been abandoned for over 35 years, has been deliberated thoroughly since Mayor Rudy Giuliani advocated Requests for Proposal to develop real estate throughout New York, including Rockaway, in 1999. The mayor said that issuing the Requests For Proposal would let the city take another step in encouraging the private development of city owned property, inevitably generating more jobs for New York.

With the revitalization and building boom throughout Rockaway in the past few years, bringing new life to the courthouse seems fitting to the revival. Gaska said, "Frankly, the real estate in Rockaway is hot right now," and added that we should just make sure that we have the right developer in the courthouse.

The three-story, 16,000 square-foot building, located at 90-01 Beach Chan nel Drive, has remained vacant despite the community’s hope that it would return to productive use.

"The building has been vacant for so long," said Orr, who added that finding a developer who would follow through with a plan "would definitely be positive for the Rockaway community."

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