Arverne Amenities Lost At Sea?
Since the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the Arverne By The Sea development took place on May 28, 2004, the community has grown to 850 homes with the construction of several hundred more planned for the near future.
More than five years later, even though many homes have been sold and occupied, and a trailer charter school has been installed, there's still no transit hub, and two piles of dirt still represent the future sites of the YMCA and the Super Stop and Shop supermarket.
What is the problem? Where are the amenities that were supposed to be completed by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and by Benjamin/ Beechwood LLC, the developers of Arverne By The Sea?
The official YMCA groundbreaking ceremony was held on November 17, 2006 when Mayor Bloomberg flew into Rockaway by helicopter and landed at Peninsula Hospital Center for the ceremony.
The YMCA at the time was seeking additional money from several sources at the request of Community Board 14. That request was for an additional $6 million to be used to expand the number of lanes for the swimming pool and include an indoor gymnasium, as opposed to the planned outdoor basketball courts.
Again in July of 2008, Arverne By The Sea officials said the Super Stop and Shop had targeted a Thanksgiving 2009 opening, exciting local residents that finally something will be built. At that time they were also informed that the foundation of the YMCA would be installed, despite not knowing if that extra money for the pool would eventually come.
Those hopes and aspirations carried on for another year with no physical evidence of progress.
Benjamin/Beechwood LLC and project manager, Gerry Romski now says that they are fully committed to completing Arverne By The Sea and are not purposely delaying any of the project's amenities.
"The thought that we are not doing everything possible to advance with Arverne By The Sea is frankly upsetting to us," Romski said. "We are firmly committed to the completion of this successful development."
He added that the people who bought into Arverne By The Sea in the very beginning we never guaranteed a specific timetable for the amenities or completion of the 2000 plus units of housing to be built in conjunction.
"No one wants to see these amenities sooner than we do. It is in our best interest," he said. "No one ever gave a date for the amenities and it is insane to think that we are delaying this on purpose."
Romski insists that Benjamin/ Beechwood has gone above and beyond the call of duty to make Arverne By The Sea better than originally drawn up.
He says their obligation was to build a 30,000 square foot community center, with no obligations for a pool or specifically a YMCA. That goes for the Stop and Shop as well.
"There was never any type of obligation to construct a Stop and Shop or even a supermarket, but we believe that it is in the betterment of the entire community to construct this. We had to work through various issues with Stop and Shop and the New York City Transit Authority. But we believe permit issuance is imminent."
According to Romski the New York City Transit Authority had to review the plans for the Stop and Shop, which will be built adjacent to the elevated train platform. But based on their review, the foundation plans had to be completely redesigned. He now says those issues are behind them, and if things go as planned, construction could start in the fall. There is nothing else left, he says, from preventing the start of construction.
"We are committed to not only complying with written obligations, but to go above and beyond those. Anyone who thinks otherwise is uninformed," Romski said.
Romski defended the development by adding that there is a false premise surrounding the development that they have missed deadlines.
Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska says that the developers have never missed a deadline so far and added that the original deal with the city was to build a $3 million community center with no promise of a pool. The community board wanted a better center, and that held up the project significantly.
"The community made a big mistake and told them not to start. Benjamin/ Beachwood has made their commitments, I believe them," he said. "If they started when they wanted to, people would be swimming in the YMCA. The community wanted a bigger and better center and that held it up."
But Gaska remains optimistic that all the amenities will be built and that Arverne By The Sea will fulfill it's commitments.
"The ideas have grown and they have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make it happen."
The delay on the Stop and Shop, Gaska says, was in part due to detailed negotiations with the MTA over installing the foundation piles so close to the subway and perhaps causing damage to the elevated Rockaway Freeway train structure.
According to the Department of Buildings, no permits have been filed as of yet for the Super Stop and Shop site. However, permits have been filed for the YMCA since last year and the land was officially assigned to them last July, according to the Department of Finance.
"We have a permit for the YMCA," Romski says. "And with a little luck we should start in the fall. The only issue is the finalizing of various documents with the City of New York and signing a final agreement."
By Nicholas Briano