2009-05-15 / Top Stories

Arverne East Hopes For Funding

Grant Application Could Decide Project's Fate
By Nicholas Briano

Representatives from the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) have applied for grant funding from New York State in order to get the Arverne East development underway, officials said Tuesday night at the Community Board 14 meeting.

Wendall Walters, assistant commissioner of HPD, hinted that if Arverne East isn't awarded the grant that the entire project could be in jeopardy after failing to receive federal stimulus funding as hoped. A decision on the grant is expected in early July.

"The grant is a good way to get the project up and running," Walters said. "The project has stalled a bit, that's why we applied for the grant."

The grant, applied for last month through the New York State Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), asks for $10 million in funding to jumpstart the project through their Restore NY Program, which provides financial assistance to municipalities for various structural improvements.

When asked if Arverne East is dependent on it, Walters said, "If the grant comes it places us in better position to build the first sub phase of the project. If we don't get that money it puts us in a whole different position and we would have to re-think the whole project. The options are finding other funding sources or not doing it at all."

The Arverne East Project is a mixed use housing proposal that is drawn up to include 1650 units of housing, which would include affordable and market rate housing, as well as condos in midand low- rise buildings.

But since the economic downturn, funding has stalled and darkened the project's outlook. In addition, Community Board members are already complaining about an overabundance of housing.

The Plan had originally also called for a 100,000-square-foot hotel, nature preserve and up to 250,000 square feet of retail space. The development would run from Beach 32 to Beach 44 Street, north of Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Walters said that getting the project off the ground is their number one priority right now.

"The recent struggles are giving us a chance look at what the true housing market is, too," he said. "Maybe it is an opportunity, while we work on the infrastructure, to take a step back and find the most appropriate way to advance this project."

He added that perhaps 1,600 units of housing may or may not be the right solution for the area and HPD wants to build accordingly with the demand for housing in the area.

The Community Board, however, was more concerned with the physical gap between the two projects which would lie between Beach 56 Street and Beach 62 Street along Rockaway Beach Boulevard, which is currently one lane wide in each direction. Meanwhile the two projects, Arverne By The Sea and Arverne East, will construct Rockaway Beach Boulevard with two lanes in each direction. This, locals contend, creates an unsafe valley between two highly trafficked areas with potential for accidents and dangerous flood conditions.

Walters said there is no contractual obligation to build a road connecting Arverne By The Sea and Arverne East by either developer, which he admits, is somewhat of a problem.

"It is a complicated issue," he said. "But we are going to get that done, and in the scheme of things, it is not my number one priority."

That created uproar among board members who unanimously feel that it is more important to complete a fourlane road in the gap before starting the Arverne East project.

"My concern is Arverne East and the lack of obligation to the developers. You said the gap between Beach 56 and Beach 62 Street is not your priority and that the transition from one development to another will be seamless," Dolores Orr, Community Board 14 chairperson said. "But it is my opinion that Arverne East cannot go forward unless that issue is resolved. I don't know why part of this $10 million grant is not going towards the construction of the gap, which is irresponsible of the City of New York," Orr said.

But Walters defended by saying that the grant had a better chance of being approved if it was designated for use towards the housing units.

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