2008-01-25 / Community

Marshall Plan Set For Rockaway's Future

By Miriam Rosenberg

Extolling the accomplishments of the past year and looking forward to 2008, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall reported that "the state and spirit of [Queens] are strong" during her State of the Borough message this month.

"From Astoria to Douglaston and from College Point to Rockaway, and all the neighborhoods in between, our borough has flourished," said Marshall at her annual January 15 speech.

The speech, given at Queens College, included several plans for the Rockaway peninsula.

Thirty-five hundred units of housing are in the pipeline, she said, 1,300 of them planned for Arverne East, and another 2,200 units in phase two of Arverne By The Sea.

"Not too far away, infrastructure work continues in Edgemere, where 77 affordable homes were constructed last year," said Marshall. "Twentynine more will be completed this year."

In addition, the borough president talked about the other amenities coming as part of the construction projects slated for the Rockaways.

For Arverne East, which Marshall said is to break ground this spring, area residents can look forward to new retail space, a community park, a town square and, possibly, a hotel.

"All this while preserving the dunes," pointed out Marshall.

Phase two of Arverne By The Sea will not only include additional housing units, but also a new supermarket and a YMCA that was funded by local elected officials, including Marshall's office.

Health care took up a good portion of the speech. Marshall addressed the recent talks of a planned merger between St. John's Episcopal Hospital and Peninsula Hospital Center.

"The need for a new, substantive hospital in the Rockaways has not diminished, but grown more acute," said Marshall. "This can be borne of collaboration between St. John's Episcopal and Peninsula Hospitals. To this end, I am working with the leadership of these institutions, their consultants and state officials."

At the end of last year, this newspaper reported that Marshall met with some of the area's elected officials and high-ranking representatives from each hospital about merging the two facilities into one new 400-bed hospital that would better serve Rockaway residents.

Following the Berger [Hospital] Commission report, which first brought up the merger, Marshall talked about the idea in last year's State of the Borough speech, as well as obtaining the services of Price Waterhouse to run her own investigation on the issue.

Constant flooding in the Jamaica and Southeast Queens areas had Marshall calling for more money to be allocated for fixing sewers and the borough's infrastructure.

"Jamaica and Southeast Queens are plagued with inadequate storm sewers," said Marshall. "Unfortunately, the city allocates only $15 million a year for the construction of lateral sewers that connect into the main trunk sewer line in Southeast Queens. At that rate, it will take more than 30 years to solve the problem."

Marshall has urged Department of Environmental Protection commissioner Emily Lloyd to seek federal funds to help reduce the amount of time repair projects will take. Marshall also believes immediate relief can be achieved by having "city capital funds allocated now to clean and renovate failing seepage basins across the borough."

Marshall also said a new library branch is being planned for Far Rockaway.

As in previous years, Marshall called for a ferry service to the Rockaways, as well as turning the abandoned Courthouse on Beach 90 Street into a permanent home in Rockaway for the City University of New York.

"Working together with local elected officials and CUNY leadership, I am convinced we can make this [CUNY By The Sea] a reality," Marshall told guests at Queens College. "I have provided more than $15 million toward this effort, and the state elected officials have added another $2 million."

While Marshall's office has been working with the developer for the Far Rockaway Shopping Center, Shopco Advisory Group, to come up with a satisfactory revitalization plan since last year, she made no mention in the speech of any new plans for the site.

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