2005-09-23 / Front Page

City Wants Affordable Homes In Arverne East

The city’s solicitation for developers interested in transforming the last part of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area includes an affordable housing requirement – a last-minute amendment that surprised key community board members.

The Request For Proposal (RFP) for Arverne East, which the city’s Housing and Preservation Department released at the end of August, requires 20 percent of the total number of housing units to “be affordable to households with incomes no greater than 130 percent of Area Median Income.” That translates to a combined annual income of about $82,000.

That stipulation was not embraced by members of Community Board 14, many of whom first heard the news at last week’s meeting, the first regular meeting of the post-summer-break season. Chairperson Delores Orr had met with HPD reps in June and wrote a letter to them in July “to memorialize some of [the board’s] concerns,” which addressed the housing requirement as well as other items.

“We restate our strong position that the amount of housing units be significantly reduced to an amount much less than the approved 1,500 units and that they be market rate one and two family homes,” Orr said in her letter. But the board’s advisory opinion was not enough to sway the city.

CB14 received a response from Wendell B. Walters, HPD Assistant Commissioner, on September 12. “In our presentation to you (Orr) and the Executive Committee of the Board in June we outlined our intent to develop a project that would serve a mix of incomes. The decision to include a specific affordability component, however, was made by HPD subsequent to our discussions with you in June,” Walters wrote.

“This goes against what we approved,” Jonathan Gaska, CB14 District Manager, told The Wave. “We want to meet [again] with HPD.”

Gaska added that the board has in the past given lots of support to affordable housing. “We supported over 1,000 units of affordable housing, more than any other community board in Queens. Clearly we have a commitment.”

Gaska said he was working to set up a meeting with HPD soon.

While the affordable housing component was a surprise, the rest of the RFP document appears much more in line with CB14’s goals, which Orr made clear in her letter when she requested the following: That retail/commercial and recreation be the primary objective of the RFP to create “much needed” full-time jobs; The development of a nationally known hotel chain; That land is set aside for a school, and if it is determined later that the school is not needed, the land shall be used for active recreation/park uses; That a provision be put in the developer’s agreement that would require them and their subcontractors to hire 25 percent local construction workers, that HPD strongly encourages the use of local vendors and businesses for supplying the development team and its subcontractors; and that qualified local residents and Minority and Women Business Entrepreneurs be given the opportunity to open retail stores within the entire scope of the project.

The board also supports the development of a “big box” retailer.

HPD says Arverne East “offers developers an opportunity to transform a long-neglected community into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.

“A renaissance of the Rockaways is now underway, and Arvere East completes the city’s plan to create a unique oceanfront community that will complement the existing neighborhood and recent developments,” the RFP says. “Other commercial uses can include a hotel/conference center and related office space and entertainment/recreational facilities.” The RFP describes the construction of a “Central Park” before development begins, the construction of a dune preserve and the creation or maintenance of beach access with at least four walkways on Beach 44, 38, 35 and 32 Streets. It says a new public school or charter school “may also be” proposed.

Arverne East covers 81-acres with about 47 acres that can be developed, according to the RFP. It is bounded to the north by Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Edgemere Avenue, Rockaway Freeway and Seagirt Boulevard, to the east by Beach 32 Street, to the south by the boardwalk and to the west by Beach 44 Street.

The complete RFP can be viewed at local libraries or online at www.NYC. gov/HPD (enter “Arverne East” into the search area. Proposals are due by December 19, 2005.

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Big Box stores tend to want tax abatements and then provide zero security making the community hire more police and the community suffer because security is still needed. This should be addressed with any board in favor of such things.
Has this board provided any money to local businesses to improve their outside areas to encourage local customers?
A board can pass an ordinance to force all landlords of rentals to upkeep their property. However one should be aware that Section 8 federal rules supercede local rules in regards to holding a tennant accountable.
One can provide affordable homes to people on Social Security who do not have a section 8 voucher. Many times "affordable housing" may be a condition imposed by a higher government entity in order to get funding. This board can turn down such funding. However there are ways of providing help to those who need it without handing an entire area over to a housing authority's "special rules." A community can build houses and sell them in the affordable range "on contract" which means they act as the bank. The community can retain more control over the property, and regain it should the occupants fall into default. This protects the property from questionable investors and surrounding values.
I would like to see this council give some prefered status to those on social security who have been raised in the area. It is important to fabric of an area to keep longtime residents who are at the poverty line rather than those with a high priority within housing authority general lists. It makes more sense to house the elderly than continualy fund families in an area that does not have growth opportunities for jobs.

I recently arrived in Far Rockaway. The area is not the same as when I was shown the different aras. I have to say Far Rockaway is depressive. There are loads of so-called AFFORDABLE HOUSING,that are over-priced substantially built houses (not homes because they do not have basic amenities as usable front or backyards). The street where I live have numerous investor houses that now have to be settled with section 8 occupiers. These section 8 tenant are mostly jobless and do not care about the upkeep of their residence. They play music all day, allow their children to destroy and vandalize other peoples house. I am so sorry that I moved here in Far Rockaway and would move in a heart beat if I could sell my now drastically reduced in price home.
I FIRMLY believe that actions are need to be taken in order to redress the low standard of AFFORDABLE HOUSING occupants such as sectin 8 recipients.
I think more market price homes are needed to bring middle income home owners. Homeowners who care about the upkeep of their homes, and do not litter the street.
Some GENTRIFICATION are needed to rid the apathetic and sedentary members of the community. Those member of the community, who do not respect themselves, their neighbor or the police who protect us from undesirables.
Stand up my fellow responsible citizens, and detrone the tyranny of gang members and their supporters who destroy the community.
I hope my comments will garner strong responses to address the social anomalies in Far Rockaway.
THANKS IN ADVNCE
Yours Sincerely,
Andrew Christie

The last thing Arverne East needs is more affordable housing. There are blocks and blocks of projects, substandard housing, low income mitchell lama, old housing stock. They just built Edgemere by the Sea, Water's Edge I, Ocean Point. They already have the Ocean Bay Houses, and Ocean Village plus even in the market rate housing there is a huge amount of Section 8 tenants. You can't attract and keep retailers and services if you continually import poor and jobless people. The lower and middle income people who live in Arverne /Far Rock/ Edgemere can't get ahead with a constant influx of poor people. The existing homeowners in the area who have been investing in their homes want to see market rate housing. They have been remodeling their homes, their yards, trying to fix their schools. The Community voted on this already MARKET RATE HOUSING. In Arverne by the Sea they snuck in three big buildings for affordable housing. Why is this happening again?

Jim Burke

Affordable Housing where there is plenty of it already is not fair. When the city promises to add more affordable housing, The city just puts the affordable housing next to other low-income affordable housing in the Rockaways. It is the easy way out for the city and it is an election year. It is the destruction of a beach community. Shame to put affordable housing on beach front property. Someone could be getting a kick back because who would want it in their neighborhood.


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