CB 14 Committee:Hold On To Old Firehouse
For more than 75 years, the brick firehouse at Beach 56 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard served the Rockaway community. The decrepit building has been unused, however, since a new firehouse and EMS station combination was build further east two years ago.
Now, the city wants to get rid of the old building and has asked locals to come up with some ideas as to what should be done with it.
To that end, Community Board 14's Land Use Committee held a meeting Wednesday night to hear resident's ideas for the disposition of the old and dilapidated building, which suffered significant fire damage shortly after it was closed..
The special meeting, which took place at Peninsula Hospital Center, was a response to a plan presented at December's Community Board meeting by a representative from the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) who said the city wants to dispose of the property.
"In this case disposition would mean sale or long-term lease pursuant to zoning," Matthew Burke of DCAS explained last month.
At CB 14's December meeting, Councilman James Sanders Jr. put forth a plan to turn the old firehouse into a vocational school, but board members wanted to find out what the community residents had to say, as well as get more details about the anders' plan.
At this week's meeting Ernest Brown, of ENACT (Edgemere Neighborhood Action Community Team), said he was intrigued when he read of Sanders' plan. Yet, he wanted to know more about it.
"I hope the community board will think about it," said Brown. "You can reach out to the councilman and see if he is blowing smoke. What would be useful to Rockaway is a vocational center for adults…with actual training. It's an ideal opportunity for adults who want to do it."
Because there was no quorum the committee can only recommend that "the board hold up the sale of the property so they can better research other community use of the land by a not-for-profit entity."
Although the meeting had ended, and some committee members had left by the time Sanders arrived, the meeting was called back into session to hear more about the council member's plan of a vocational school centering on offering basic construction and entry-level courses in the health field. Sanders, who liked the recommendation that the committee will make, said he had already visited several vocational schools and found one school in Manhattan he would like to use as a model for Rockaway, one school in Manhattan that teaches high school students in the day and caters to all ages in the evening.
He said there are two ways to achieve putting a vocational school in Rockaway. One is through the Department of Education and the other is through the Department of Small Business Services.
"The more natural of the two is the Department of Education," said Sanders.
He said he has a half million dollars for the school as a result of the money his district received from airport leases, and Sanders said he would go back to Mayor Michael Bloomberg for more funding.
"You need to put off the ULURP process [of the city selling the land] as long as you can…to allow me to get the necessary resources together for this venture," Sanders told the committee members.
Sanders, who told everyone he was putting his name on the line to make the school happen, said he would be meeting with DOE architects in two weeks and he has already met with the regional superintendent for Region 5. He also said it doesn't necessarily have to be the DOE. It all depends, he said, what someone brings to the table. He gave a timeline of opening the school as two years.
"Only time will tell, but you got to aim," said Sanders, who wants to see a vocational school in the district by the end of his term.
The city has given CB 14 until January 22 to make any suggestions, which are advisory. The full board will take into consideration the committee's recommendation, discuss the issue and on vote on it at its monthly meeting this Tuesday, January 9. The open meeting will be held at the Knights of Columbus on Beach 90 Street at 7:45 p.m.