CB 14 Approves Plans For New Clothing Distribution Center
By Miriam Rosenberg
With only two dissenting votes and with two conditions that relate to traffic safety, Community Board 14 approved the plans of Federal Jeans, Inc. to build a new, light manufacturing and distribution center in Rockaway. The facility would reportedly bring approximately 80 construction jobs and 100 permanent jobs to the community.
"[The board wants] traffic lights by the two entrances to the factory [where trucks will be entering and exiting] near the EL on Rockaway Freeway," Community Board 14 district manager Jonathan Gaska told The Wave. "We also want to see 81 Street made a two-way street."
As reported in The Wave's March 3 issue, the company plans to construct a 154,000 square foot distribution center on 276,000 square feet of land in the area bounded by Rockaway Freeway, Hammels Boulevard, Beach 77 Street and Beach 84 Street as part of the Arverne Urban Renewal plan.
Representatives from Federal Jeans, New York City's Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and RDRC spoke to the board about the proposal.
"RDRC will work with the person who is doing the hiring at Federal Jeans by screening, outreaching, marketing..." said Ford. "RDRC will do follow-up to be sure that employees do what Federal Jeans wants them to do."
Federal Jeans will pay $400 per week for stock personnel, $600 per week for clerical workers and $1,000 per week for those in management positions.
Federal Jeans' Marc Viggiano, in response to a question concerning benefits, said, "As we move closer to the hiring point, all that will be spelled out."
The two opposing votes came from board members Betty Leon and Steve Cooper.
Leon refused to vote in favor of the proposal without guarantees on the number of local residents that would be hired at the distribution center. Cooper felt the land could be put to better use.
"It's valuable land that could be used for better jobs," Cooper told The Wave after the vote. "We could do better for our unemployed than stuffing boxes, then shipping [goods] out in a box."
While their concerns drew a debate, as the final vote showed, Leon and Cooper were in the minority with the community board and the general public.
CB 14's Land Use committee heard a presentation by Federal Jeans on February 28. Al Moore, the co-chair of that committee, told The Wave he felt having Federal Jeans in the area would be a positive for the community. He also addressed his fellow board members on the subject.
"If you want a better job, you have to start somewhere," said Moore.
The board's district manager, Jonathan Gaska reminded those in the room "Rockaway has the highest unemployment rate in the borough and we have many low-skilled people. It's not the answer, but it's clearly part of the answer."
Teresa Scott, who is the community liaison for the Coalition for Far Rockaway, believes bringing Federal Jeans to the area is a way to get Far Rockaway on the map.
"I think it's good," Scott told the board during the public comment period. "We need jobs out here. It's a good starting rate. We need to get Far Rockaway back on the map.
"Maybe if we had a factory here, people might come out here to see what we are about."
As for hiring people from the Rockaways, Viggiano explained that two of the principal partners in the company - Joseph Joseph and Elazar Joseph -come from the Neponsit area of Rockaway, so "it's important we start from Rockaway and work our way out." The proposal now goes to the Queens Borough President's office as it goes up the ladder to the City Council where it would get final approval in approximately seven months.