EDC: Jean Warehouse A Dead Deal
What was supposed to be a boon to the Rockaway economy has turned out to be a bust. A manufacturing assembly and distribution center that was to bring approximately 80 construction jobs and 100 permanent entry-level jobs to the community is dead.
In 2004, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that Federal Jeans, Inc. was to purchase 270,000 square feet of city-owned property in Arverne between Beach 77 and Beach 84 Streets - within the Rockaway Empire Zone and Arverne Urban Renewal Area.
"Federal Jeans was interested in several city owned properties, but they are no longer involved in that," said Janel Patterson, a spokesperson for the city's Economic Development Corporation. "They backed away."
In March 2006, Community Board 14 voted in favor of the plan by the importer, manufacturer and distributor of denim products.
At that meeting there was a lot of hope, especially as a representative for the company stressed that the principal partners of Federal Jeans - Joseph Joseph and Elazar Joseph - come from the Neponsit area of Rockaway.
"It's important we start from Rockaway and work our way out," said Marc Viggiano of Federal Jeans, when he talked about hiring people from the area.
In May 2006, the City Planning Commission gave its approval for the company to acquire the land.
Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, said he was told by the EDC that infrastructure costs were higher than expected.
"We are looking for other possibilities, maybe retail for the property," said Gaska. "Something that would generate jobs."
Gaska said that Community Board 14 has the highest unemployment rate in the borough and many job applicants are unskilled. He believes retail is the ticket to good entry-level positions in the job market.
"We're looking at some type of retail - one large store. Something to bring some much-needed entry-level jobs to the community," Gaska continued.
"You have to remember Federal Jeans just pulled out within the last two months. They were going to provide about 100 jobs. Now those jobs are no longer in the community. We want to find something that will offer [those] 100 jobs."
In the meantime, despite the EDC saying the deal is dead, a representative of the company, who identified himself as Roy Yoram, still says the company plans on building the warehouse, but would not comment any further.
"They [Federal Jeans] do own property once owned by Keyspan that, I think, is adjacent to the city-owned land," said the EDC's Patterson.
Gaska, who said the area that the company was to build on was 90 percent city-owned property, explained that the private property is "a small lot."
"Whatever has to go there [on the city-owned property], the builders will have to work something out," Gaska said. "They can build around it [the land owned by Federal Jeans] or - if it is something the community favors - there is eminent domain, if Federal Jeans is not willing to sell."