2004-11-05 / Columnists

On The Bayfront

I don’t think anyone can argue against the fact that the Arverne By The Sea project is one of the most promising investments to the Rockaway community in over forty years. After years of barren land and broken promises, I can understand why Community Board 14 approved the project, with some ambiguity I might add. How can a community pass up such promise in such a depressed area? Even I had a lot of mixed feelings, which I eluded to when speaking at one of the public sessions before the vote was held. The project looks beautiful on paper. Is it practical though? The impact is tremendous – both good and bad. However, we cannot overlook the negative impacts it will have and laws that may be broken.

For one thing, the traffic at the Far Rockaway/Inwood boundaries have been horrendous. All those tractor trailers and construction equipment aren’t coming over the bridges to reach the Rockaway peninsula. It is coming right down Rockaway Blvd., onto Route 878, Burnside Avenue, Sheridan Blvd., Beach Channel Drive and Seagirt Blvd. There was a bottleneck at Burnside Avenue and Route 878 on more than one occasion where traffic was at a standstill for at least a half hour. No creeping up, no stop-and-go traffic; absolute standstill! At this rate, it will only get worse. Add 15,000 to 18,000 new inhabitants (am I being conservative enough with these numbers?).

The Bureau of Transportation Statistics reports that the average family owns or leases 1.9 vehicles per household. For households consisting of seven people or more, the ownership of a vehicle jumps to 2.8. However, for the purposes of this column, we will look at the “average” family.

Currently, there are 2,600 housing units to be built at the Arverne By The Sea project. If we were to use 18,000 people as a guide, this helps us to understand that 4,100 “units” or homes (a two family home would count as two units) are needed to house these folks. If we take into account that there will be use of public transportation (let’s hope and pray that the Rockaway Branch of the transit system holds up a little bit longer), we can reduce the ratio of cars from 1.9 per family to 1.5 The ratio doesn’t lessen significantly because of people who drive to public transportation for various reasons (i.e.: to the Long Island Railroad or a closer station such as Howard Beach or Ozone Park). Some people travel as part of their business, as well as people who are doing the “reverse commute” to employment on Long Island. So now we are looking at 6,150 more cars on the local roads. We aren’t deducting anything else because this area is currently uninhabited. The Arverne By The Sea project calls for one car off-street parking space per unit. Where are the other 2,050 cars? Does Arverne By The Sea provide one fifth of total space to roads to support its development? Where do the visitors and guests park?

I brought the parking issue to Gerry Romski’s attention at one of the public hearings. Gerry is an attorney for the Arverne By The Sea project. I posed a hypothetical instance where, if I were to purchase a home on the southern portion of the development and invited twenty friends for dinner. Where would they park? Gerry sheepishly pointed out to me an area north of the freeway. Can you imagine that?

As you can see, there are design flaws. Not just at the Arverne By The Sea project, but in the infrastructure in the surrounding communities as well. Those infrastructures are not being modified to meet the needs of the Rockaway Peninsula.

Our evacuation routes are at risk. Development of property along the Rockaway Blvd./ Five Towns area is affected.

The Five Towns itself is affected.

Main Far Rockaway streets will become more dangerous to both automobiles and pedestrians. Traffic congestion on Rockaway Beach Blvd., west of the development will be common and parking on Beach 116th Street will be as accessible as parking in Manhattan. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see all this.

There are workable solutions to all this. Urban planners need to be brought on board to re-look at the whole picture and mediate these issues while there is still a chance. The barn door isn’t shut yet. The NY City Board of Standards and Appeals are, in my mind, biased because one of the members who has a tremendous amount of clout is one of Rockaway’s well known powerbrokers.

I don’t feel the Arverne By the Sea project received objective treatment.

The next column will be dedicated to the environmental impact and laws of the land (literally).

By Elisa Hinken

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