2005-11-04 / Front Page

Three-Year Countdown To Rockaway City University Unit

By Howard Schwach


The Rockaway Courthouse was first opened in 1932 and has been deteriorating since it was last used as an arts venue in the early 1970’s.The Rockaway Courthouse was first opened in 1932 and has been deteriorating since it was last used as an arts venue in the early 1970’s.

The first step was taken this week in what may well be a three-year trek to make the dilapidated courthouse at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive into a unit of the City University system.

Workmen began on Wednesday to clean and secure the fa├žade and the roof, the first step in cleaning and restoring the building.

“For a long time, I think I was the only one in Rockaway who believed that the old courthouse would become a City University unit,” said Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska with a laugh. “Now, everybody will begin to believe it.”

Funding for the project has come from Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, who first pledged a school to Rockaway when she took office.

Marshall allocated $3 million in discretionary funds this year to get the project going and $2.5 million each year for the next three years, according to Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who has been working with Marshall on the school project.

Dan Andrews, a spokesperson for Marshall told The Wave last year when the plan was first discussed that “[Marshall] is determined to see the project become a success.”

It is expected that the project would cost upwards of $6 million to complete.

The courthouse was opened with great fanfare in September of 1932 and continued to be an active court until 1962, when the court system was centralized to Jamaica and Kew Gardens.

In the early 1970’s, the building was used by a local cultural and theatrical group, but closed once again due to a lack of funds to bring the building up to standards.

In the late 1990’s, the city’s Economic Development Corporation issued a Request for Proposal and a series of developers expressed interest in the property for such things as a town hall, a professional building, commercial offices and a day care center.

All of those development plans fell through, reportedly because the cost of rehabbing the building would be too great.

As part of the original plan, Middle School 180 was to be used as a temporary home for the CUNY unit, but negotiations with the Department of Education have stalled and the school recently became the district’s “Scholar’s Academy.”

Pheffer said that the plan would include buying other, unidentified properties nearby the courthouse for parking purposes.

“There is no time line for the school as yet,” Gaska said. “We are probably at least three years away from realizing this dream.”

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