Economic Environment Slows Prospects For Arverne East Project
The downturn in the housing market and the tenor of the overall economic environment have forced the developers to slow the pace of the Arverne East's development, a spokesperson for the developers told members of Community Board 14 last week.
Susan Fine, Arverne East's Executive Vice President, detailed the curtailed plans at the meeting and also answered board member's concerns about the project, as she announced the new timetable for the three-phase development.
"We won't start the houses until January 2010," said Fine, at the April 8 meeting. "Hopefully, by 2011 the housing market will have recovered."
Last month, The Wave reported that the development team for Arverne East - The Bluestone Organization, L & M Development Partners and Triangle Equities - intended to begin construction in the second quarter of 2009, with work on infrastructure to begin six months before.
Starting in January of next year, developers will spend all of 2009 working on infrastructure such as roads and sewers.
"We're giving great consideration and time on the pace which we are advancing home ownership in the city, especially Far Rockaway," said Assistant Commissioner Wendell Walters of the city's Department of Housing, Preservation and Development.
Problems have already begun to pop up with the project.
Builders for both Arverne East and Arverne By The Sea have plans to change Rockaway Beach Boulevard from two to four lanes in the areas they plan to develop.
No work, however, is scheduled for the area in the no-man's land between the two developments, from Beach 44 to Beach 62 Streets.
"The city has dropped the ball," said Delores Orr, the chair of CB 14, who added that the plans could create a crisis.
Walter said he has reached out to the Department of Transportation in an effort to determine what can be done in terms of planning and funding, since the money is not in the original budget.
"The most immediate issue is the confines of the train station and how to expand [the road near the station] to a four lane roadway," said the HPD commissioner. "I recognize there's a hole in the plan."
Land Committee co-chair Vince Castellano believes there should be no construction until the problem of "the boulevard to nowhere" is solved.
"Until the city designs and funds it - I want to see the shovels in the ground before Arverne East gets going," said Castellano.
Since the developers of Arverne East are building a park from Beach 44 Street to Beach 58 Street, Walters believes the city should not be completely responsible for the expansion of the road.
"I don't think it is a complete, 100 percent burden of New York City to do," said Walters, to the displeasure of Fine. "Maybe we didn't spell it out in the RFP. We're willing to negotiate. It has to be done."
Because of the limitations mandated by the plan's Environmental Impact Study, the types of stores that can be built in the area did not meet the expectations of some of the board members.
To the moans of board members, Alyssa Goldman of Triangle Equities said that businesses such as Rainbow Shops, Mandees or PayLess Shoes are the types of stores that the new shopping area could accommodate. A small supermarket is also possible. Big Box stores are not permitted.
Fine also spoke about the parking, an issue that was of concern to members of CB 14's Land Use Committee. She said every unit in Phase One will include a parking space, but parking in the rest of the development is still being worked out.
"Our goal is to provide one to one parking throughout the project," said Fine.
In February, developers said there would be a parking ratio of one to one for single homes and about 70 percent parking for the units in the mid-rise buildings.
In response to a board member's question, Liz Sulik of Peninsula Hospital said that, as the result of a study, the city does not believe the development's new residents will affect Rockaway's hospitals.
"They would not discuss it any more," said Sulik, a board member. "We've [Peninsula Hospital] already seen a tremendous impact on the emergency rooms as a result of the people moving in."
Besides homes and retail space, the Arverne East plan also calls for a transit plaza, a town square, a community park and a nature preserve.