2006-09-15 / Community

Rockaway To Get Its Share Of Airport Money (Eventually)

By Miriam Rosenberg Contributing Editor

By Miriam Rosenberg
Contributing Editor

Standing in at the entrance to the common walkway on Beach 20 Street back in 2005, Business owner LaVida Jervis shows Councilman James Sanders Jr. and Small Business Commissioner Robert Walsh a drawing for a proposed park in the plaza.Standing in at the entrance to the common walkway on Beach 20 Street back in 2005, Business owner LaVida Jervis shows Councilman James Sanders Jr. and Small Business Commissioner Robert Walsh a drawing for a proposed park in the plaza.

Far Rockaway's business district and other parts of Rockaway could soon see money for improvements as a result of the airport lease extension signed two years ago by the city and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

The first phase of the capital projects, which provides $39.5 million to Queens communities that are negatively affected by JFK International and LaGuardia Airports, was announced at City Hall Wednesday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"Just as investing in our airports is critical to New York City, so too is investing in the infrastructure that leads to the airports and in the communities that surround them," Bloomberg said. "JFK and LaGuardia contribute billions to the New York City economy, and the airport industry serves as Queens' second largest employer. By making our airports more accommodating and accessible, we can facilitate their growth, create even more jobs and ease the traffic burden in the region."

Joining Bloomberg at the press conference were representatives from the Port Authority, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and members of the Airport Community Advisory Board (CAB) -including Councilmen Joseph Addabbo Jr. and Councilman James Sanders Jr., who chairs the board.

"We're gratified that this day has come and that the people of Queens will see more benefits for having the airports - such as new greening and critical transportation improvements," Sanders said.

The plaza on Beach 20 Street in Far Rockaway's business district is scheduled for revitalization. Plans call for a park - as was first proposed in 2005 by LaVida Jervis, the president of Rockaway East Merchant's Association, to be built in that space, according to a spokesperson for Sanders.

In an interview in January 2005, Sanders told this newspaper that he would like to do one big project a year with the money allocated for his district.

"There will be between $5- and $8 million a year, so it must be used wisely," Sanders said at the time.

Addabbo told The Wave Wednesday afternoon that he felt the press conference might have been jumping the gun a bit since details for each different project "have not been solidified."

He continued by saying there are a lot of proposals about infrastructure, traffic lights but "there are no real details. Things are still being discussed," said Addabbo. "It nice to tell people how close we are to doing something, but the details still need ironing out."

While Addabbo said he and Sanders each have ideas for what they would like to see for the Rockaways, it is best to step back and take a "wait and see" approach.

The $39.5 million is the first in a down payment toward capital improvement projects in the borough totaling $100 million that the Port Authority agreed to when it signed the airport-lease extension with the city. Among the current projects are improvements to airport and AirTrain access, greening (landscaping improvements) and streetscape work and traffic studies.

"Each of these capital projects will improve transportation or spur economic development in some way here in Queens," said Borough President Marshall. "And, it is most appropriate that the renegotiation of the Airport Lease Agreement provided funding for projects that will benefit those residents most affected by airport-related issues."

Each project is selected by the city, the borough president, the Port Authority and CAB. The next round of projects will be reviewed in the following months, and an announcement is expected early next year.

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