2009-08-14 / Top Stories

Eye Affordable Housing For Beach Club Site

Community Seeks Market Rate For Critical Site
By Howard Schwach

The former Beach Club site would become affordable housing apartments under a developer's recent plan. The former Beach Club site would become affordable housing apartments under a developer's recent plan. What was once one of Rockaway's most popular restaurants and then became one of the peninsula's tony catering halls may soon become dozens of affordable housing rental units, officials say.

In late June, Orin Evenhar, who is now one of the owners of the site that was formerly the Beach Club, had a meeting with Jonathon Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, and Matt Hickey, the chief of staff of City Councilman Eric Ulrich at Ulrich's office in Rockaway Park. At the meeting, Evenhar outlined the plan he has for the site, which is located at 129 Beach 116 Street, directly behind the tony Ocean Grande condominiums.

According to Gaska, Evenhar has gone to the city's Department Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) asking for a tax abatement for his affordable housing under the city New Hop Program, which seeks the development of housing those who cannot afford market-rate prices. That means that renters seeking the apartments would have to meet income minimums and maximums, which have not yet been set. Gaska says, however, that a studio on the oceanfront site would rent for about $750 a month, while a two-bedroom would rent for approximately $1,300 a month, considerably less that the market rate in that area.

The new building would reportedly be five stories high, something that the zoning changes made early this year would allow. Gaska, however, said that he pointed out to the developer that he would need City Council approval for affordable housing on the site.

He added that the community was not interested in rental properties on that site, that it would prefer houses or condominiums.

"Rental properties such as that one are not what the community has indicated that it wants," Gaska said, adding that the community should have a voice in the types of housing slated for the area. Hickey said that he had not heard from Evenhar since that meeting, but a local realtor connected to the market told The Wave that the developer has gone ahead and put in a proposal with HPD for the tax exemption, prior to going to the City Council for permission to build.

Experts say that he will have a hard time getting a vote to build the project without an approval by Councilman Eric Ulrich, and the new councilman told The Wave that he is unlikely to give his nod to the project.

"I use Community Board 14 as a filter," he said. "The plan calls for rental units and too few parking slots, and the community has already said that they don't favor the proposal."

Ulrich said that he favors a mixed-use plan that would allow for some affordable housing mixed in with market-rate units.

That is more in line with what the community has long favored, an oberver said, adding that Rockaway already has more than its share of affordable housing.

A spokesperson for the city's De-partment of Housing Preservation and Development declined to comment on whether or not an application has been filed for the Beach Club site.

Evenhar, who has also developed other property on the west end, did not return calls for comment on this story.

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