2009-03-27 / Community

City Makes Rockaway Waterfront Alliance Firehouse Plan Official

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced the selection of Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) to acquire and redevelop the former Rockaway Beach Boulevard Firehouse located at 58-03 Rockaway Beach Boulevard in the Rockaways, Queens.

The four-year-old environmental advocacy and educational organization plans to invest approximately $2 million to create the Rockaway Institute for Sustainable Environment, which will be RWA's permanent home. RWA's staff of four currently operates from local schools and other community spaces serving about 3,000 Rockaway residents and youths annually. This new permanent home will enable RWA to increase its client list to more than 10,000 a year and add additional staff. Its programs address issues such as habitat conservation, renewable resources and public space.

"I am pleased that Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of environmental issues, has been selected to redevelop this unique site," said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky. "RWA not only provides valuable programs for its community, but its activities are also strongly aligned with the goals of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC to create a more sustainable New York."

RWA's proposal for the 78-year-old former firehouse calls for a "great hall" for projects and events, catering facilities, an organic café, classrooms for after school programs and job training, a roof garden, and basement aquaculture center, as well as rental space for other community events. The proposed project, which maximizes use of the building and surrounding land, will also preserve the character and appearance of the former firehouse. RWA also expects the renovation to achieve LEED certification.

"I am pleased that the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance has been designated to transform the abandoned firehouse into the Rockaway Institute for Sustainable Environment, a vibrant community center that focuses on the environment and tomorrow's green jobs," said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. "Just a stones throw from both Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, it will be a great community resource that will provide much-needed services for our youth, community space and environmental education, all in a LEED Certified, green building. I want to thank Mayor Bloomberg and EDC for their partnership with my office and other elected officials and for their commitment to the Rockaways."

RWA provides after school programs for grades K-8, runs "living classroom" programming revolving around Jamaica Bay, and hosts community events such as bike tours, kayaking trips, tours of nature preserves and sponsors clean-up events. The redevelopment of the firehouse will allow RWA to expand existing programs and add new initiatives, including programming for seniors, green-collar job training, outdoor film screenings, and a Saturday farmer's market.

"Rockaway Waterfront Alliance is pleased to have been selected by EDC and HPD to revitalize the Rockaway Firehouse," said RWA Executive Director Jeannie DuPont, "We hope to make the firehouse a beacon for community based programs and cultural activities that address environmental sustainability and green collar job training for people of all ages. This marks a big step forward for the Rockaway community as we plan to partner with many communitybased organizations and individuals throughout the redevelopment stage of the firehouse."

In 2007, the City established a community steering committee to help develop guidelines for the reuse and development of decommissioned firehouse sites. NYCEDC and the city's Department of Housing Development and Preservation, in cooperation with the Department of Cultural Affairs, used those guidelines to craft a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Rockaway Firehouse site. RWA was selected for this project because its proposal most closely adhered to the criteria of the RFP, the organization's extensive work with the Rockaway community, and its track record for successful programming.

In addition, RWA has increased its budget and programming significantly each year since its inception. Its development team consists of qualified, professional development consultants, architects, engineers and minorityand woman-owned enterprise consultants.

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