2006-02-17 / Editorial/Opinion

Growth May Not Be Positive For Property Owners

The Rockaway peninsula saw its most dramatic population gain in at least 25 years in 2004, according to a study prepared by the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA). During that calendar year, Rockaway welcomed nearly 4,700 new residents to bring the total population of the peninsula to 115,000. From 1990 to 2000, the Rockaway population grew by something over 4,000. During the entire decade of the 1980’s Rockaway gained only 200 residents. Those numbers are startling, and there are many who look at the numbers with something akin to rapture. There are others, however, who see the uncontrolled building boom and the corresponding population boom as a little frightening. There are the usual complaints – too many people, summer traffic jams, not enough schools, not enough infrastructure, not enough services. There are others who look strictly at housing, however, who also worry. We are already starting to see one problem: too many apartments chasing fewer people who want to rent them. Nearly all of the new homes being built have rental apartments attached and are being marketed with the idea that the rental apartment will go a long way in paying off a mortgage that the homeowner otherwise could not afford. That has become dangerous thinking in a peninsula isolated from the rest of the city and with major transportation and school infrastructure problems. What happens to a new homeowner who can’t find a tenant to rent that $1,200 a month, two-bedroom apartment? Does the owner reduce the rent and take on more of the mortgage burden or does the owner simply say “I can’t do it” and default to the bank? Neither case paints a happy picture. Local real estate brokers tell us that the rental apartment problem is already building. There are simply too many apartments available to rent to too few renters. There is a similar problem in the resale of homes, particularly in the east end. Realtors tell The Wave that the home market there has softened considerably, with many who need to sell their homes simply unable to sell at even severely reduced prices. While the west end home market is still stable, there is no doubt in the minds of experts that the homes there are grossly overvalued and may soon reach that proverbial “bubble” that everybody fears. What can be done? First of all, the transportation system has to be improved to make the peninsula more comfortable for those who work in Manhattan. Several new schools have to be built to satisfy the growing population of school-aged children. Stores and other amenities have to be built and built quickly. Then, somebody has to take a look at the building boom and perhaps say “enough.”

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Improved subway and bus service is likely the key. And, it is easily done with positive revenue impact for the MTA. In particular, the A train schedule from Far Rockaway needs to include a run "starting every quarter hour," during weekday rush hours (much like on an LIRR schedule) and become non - stop from Rockaway Blvd (make it an express stop?) to/from Jay Street. QM 16/17 bus schedule can be gradually expanded to every half hour during rush hours. With predictable and reliable mass transit, the Peninsula will eventually become THE place to live in the 21st Century in NYC. Whle long time Peninsula residents may feel crowded compared to earlier times it is unlikely that the Rockaways will become overcrowded in the sense that the rest of NYC already is. In this case, growth is good!


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