2008-05-16 / Editorial/Opinion

The Right Decision For Rockaway

After a contentious public hearing that some observers say came close to rancor and violence, the members of Community Board 14 voted on Tuesday night to approve the city's new zoning plan for five of Rockaway's communities, including Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park. The plan calls for protection for the remaining bungalow colonies on the peninsula, larger homes for the Orthodox Jews in the Far Rockaway and West Lawrence communities and an upzoning for parts of Rockaway Park that would allow for eight-story buildings. That last segment of the plan became the sticking point early in the process, with local civic organizations arguing that the plan for the midlevel buildings would endanger both the character of the neighborhood and the safety of the residents. It was made clear at a community meeting last week, however, that the community board, which has only an advisory role in the procedure, had two choices: accept the plan that would benefit the majority of the rezoned neighborhoods and live with the eight-story buildings on Beach 116 Street and along Rockaway Beach Boulevard or reject the plan, killing the mid-level buildings, but putting the rest of the peninsula in jeopardy of high-density development. Given those two choices, we believe that the community board members did the right thing. First of all, Beach 116 Street calls out for development. The new zoning regulations, not even formally in place, have sparked interest in such decaying and disused buildings as the Lawrence Hotel. That can only be positive for the shopping street. More will certainly follow. We would like to see the development on the east side of Beach 116 Street, from Rockaway Beach Boulevard to the boardwalk, include the entire area between Beach 116 Street and Beach 115 Street, which also needs the touch of development to rid it of the old and deteriorating SRO's and former beach hotels that line that block. Now the plan goes to Borough President Helen Marshall and eventually to the City Council. We hope that this is the beginning of the revitalization of the Beach 116 Street area just as Arverne By The Sea was the beginning of the revitalization of the center of the peninsula.

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