Community Board 14:Keep Abandoned Firehouse OffMarket
In what was anti-climatic after last week's Land Use Committee hearing, Community Board 14 unanimously voted on Tuesday to ask the city not to sell the city-owned property where the old firehouse stands, at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, to give the board time to find a use for the land that would benefit the community.
Land Use Committee member Michael Tubridy told the board at Tuesday's meeting "although there was no quorum [at the January 3 meeting], there was lots of discussion."
That discussion included the proposal by Councilman James Sanders Jr. to use the property for a vocational school.
"[The councilman] feels he has the time and money to accomplish the goal of a vocational school," said Tubridy.
At last week's meeting, Sanders said he already had $500,000 for such a school - that would center on construction and health care for young people and adults - and was preparing to speak with Department of Education architects and engineers about possible work on the building.
Working with Sanders' office, the committee recommended that the city put the sale on hold so the board could "explore community uses of the building as a vocational center through a not-for-profit or city agency."
Lisa Emanuel, a liaison for Sanders, spoke on the councilman's behalf at the board meeting.
"It is something that Far Rockaway needs," said Emanuel. "It has immense potential. [The Councilman asks] that you postpone the sale in hopes of it being turned into a vocational school."
Two members of the community spoke in favor of Sanders' idea.
"There are multi-reasons for violence," said Al Jackson. "It will ease with employment…jobs give income. It's a long-term plan that benefits us all."
Ernest Brown, of ENACT (Edgemere Neighborhood Action Community Team) also supports the plan. "I support adult training, to prepare people to get that first job," said Brown. "It would be good for Rockaway. I hope the councilman is serious…to make it happen."
Yet, while he believes that Sanders' vision is a good one, Brown told The Wave that he concerned about what comes next - where the money for the equipment students will need in their training, repair of the building and the training itself will come from.
"At some point we have to do something with the building. It is deteriorating," Brown explained to the paper.
Some board members were concerned the wording of the recommendation would box them into losing the ability to use the land for other purposes should Sanders' idea for a vocational school not materialize.
Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for CB 14, urged his fellow board members to not let go of such valuable property whether Sanders comes through or not. "It's a site we have control over," said Gaska. "Let's not give it away."
In the end the board, making a slight change in the wording of the committee's recommendation, voted to oppose the sale or lease of the property until such time the board can explore community uses of the building such as a vocational school by a not-for-profit or city agency.
The city gave the CB 14 until January 22 to make any suggestions, which are strictly advisory, about the land on which the more than 75 year-old building now stands.