2009-04-24 / Top Stories

City Seeks $ For Arverne East Project

By Miriam Rosenberg

Michal Aronson (left), the director for New Construction Special Initiatives, the Division of Housing Production; Lindsay Haddix, an HPD Project Manager for the Division of Housing Production; and Lee Ilan, the Chief of Planning for the Office of Environmental Remediation listen and take notes during last week's hearing. Michal Aronson (left), the director for New Construction Special Initiatives, the Division of Housing Production; Lindsay Haddix, an HPD Project Manager for the Division of Housing Production; and Lee Ilan, the Chief of Planning for the Office of Environmental Remediation listen and take notes during last week's hearing. The City of New York will soon file an application requesting $10 million in State funds to help defray costs for Phase 1A of the Arverne East project, representatives of the City announced at a public hearing last week.

The hearing, presided over by representatives of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Mayor's Office of Operations, was held at Peninsula Hospital Center on April 16 to gather local reaction to the project, which would be included in the Restore New York funding application when it is filed next month.

Following the meeting Wendell Walters, the Associate Commissioner for HPD, said the grant was "important to getting this project off the ground."

"The project, right now, is in negotiations with the developer. Its ultimate disposition [is] for the construction of the whole project," said Walters.

After the hearing, HPD's Wendell Walters answers questions from Vince Castellano of CB 14. Walters also spoke with community board member Al Moore following the meeting. After the hearing, HPD's Wendell Walters answers questions from Vince Castellano of CB 14. Walters also spoke with community board member Al Moore following the meeting. He added that the City is still committed to Arverne East, but "it's going to take some time balancing the costs and the issues associated with the home ownership market. We don't want to proceed faster than the market will bear."

Possible concerns outnumbered the yeas at the hearing.

Eleni Marudis, representing the Board of Directors for Dayton Towers Cooperative, and area residents John Bennett and Susan Anderson were all concerned about the area's current infrastructure.

"Has the board or committee considered monies to create ways to come in and out of Rockaway?" asked Marudis. "Because it's become more of a procession than a way to travel up and down our beautiful peninsula."

With many homes in foreclosure and sitting vacant, Anderson asked why Phase 1 was constructed to build housing and "where are all the amenities that people are going to want to come to?" She cited needed roadwork and commercial buildings for businesses, which could provide jobs.

Susan Anderson, who owns a bungalow in Far Rockaway, was among several residents who were concerned about the area's infrastructure and the abundance of buildings and vacant homes on the peninsula. Susan Anderson, who owns a bungalow in Far Rockaway, was among several residents who were concerned about the area's infrastructure and the abundance of buildings and vacant homes on the peninsula. Bennett told city officials, "The whole area you are talking about is a flood zone. To overdevelop it is a problem that may act up when the ocean acts up."

Members of Community Board 14, Vince Castellano and Al Moore, objected to the project put forward last week. Castellano pointed to the saturation of 'For Rent' signs and housing stock already in Rockaway.

"The timetable to go ahead with the project couldn't be worse," said Castellano. "We have numerous foreclosures on the peninsula."

He added that the ideas for the project were in violation of an agreement CB 14 had with the developers. Castellano said the funding was to be private to show financial viability and there was to be a "time-table in total and not pick and choose what parts of the project they could go forward with."

Donovan Richards, chief of staff for Councilman James Sanders Jr., said his boss is for the project, but only if the developers keep their word in accordance with a recent community benefits agreement.

A representative for Ocean Bay Community Development Corporation's director Pat Simon also says they support the project.

According to Walters, the monies in the grant would help to fund infrastructure for the first phase of the project. "It will be primarily used for that [infrastructure], but it will help deflect the costs of the homes developed, as well," said Walters.

The estimated cost of Phase 1A is $55 million. It involves the construction of 103 owner-occupied two-family homes on blocks on the south side of Edgemere Avenue between Beach 32 and Beach 35 Streets.

The executive vice president for the Arverne East project, Susan Fine, said this week that, "infrastructure work should begin [in the Fall of] this year, if we get the Restore NY grant." The construction of homes will start one year later. In April, 2008 Fine told CB 14 that infrastructure work was to begin in January 2009 and construction of homes was to start in January 2010. The development team of The Bluestone Organization, L & M Development Partners and Triangle Equities, are the development team for the project.

The application will be submitted on May 4 and, according to a press release from the governor's office, winners of the grants will be announced later this spring.

This is the third and final year for Restore New York. Since 2006, 118 localities have received grants totaling $150 million. This year another $150 million will be given out to aid in the revitalization of commercial and residential properties.

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