2010-02-05 / Top Stories

Meeting Held To Develop Master Plan For Rockaway

By Miriam Rosenberg

Almost 50 area residents attended the initial meeting on Saturday for a master plan for the Rockaways. Almost 50 area residents attended the initial meeting on Saturday for a master plan for the Rockaways. After years of having developers and the city decide what Rockaway needs, a group of community members and representatives of civic groups are taking the bull by the horns to decide if a master plan of priorities for the peninsula should be developed. On January 30, approximately 50 area residents attended a meeting at Peninsula Hospital Center to take up the issue and brainstorm ideas.

Jeanne DuPont, the president of the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance, chaired the meeting. “There are many communities throughout New York City that have taken on 197-a plans, community led master plan processes (Greenpoint, Williamsburg completed a few years back),” said DuPont, in an e-mail. “They essentially got civic groups together to form a coalition that hired a landscape architect and planner to lead a plan that incorporated everything from parks, to bike paths to even job creation and flood planning. It is really up to the group to decide what should be included and if the community is interested in doing such a plan.”

There was immediate backing at the meeting for such a plan.

Following the presentation by DuPont, the attendees formed separate groups to brainstorm ideas. “[We need] to let the city government know our desires,” said Glenn DiResto, a former City Council candidate, who added that, “it looked like [DuPont] was trying to bring the entire peninsula together.”

Mike O’Toole said of the meeting, “I think it is a good first step.”

Joe Hartigan said, “A plan is necessary.”

Some of the suggestions that were put forward included developing an emergency evacuation plan, flood control, economic development and job creation, better use of parks and green technology and improving public transportation.

In the next few weeks, DuPont will contact Community Board 14, the Department of City Planning, and professional planners for their suggestions.

This gives everyone who attended the meeting time to read up on 197-a plans (at http://www.nyc.gov/html/ dcp/html/community_planning/197a.shtml) and think about how broad or narrow the plan should be. A possible name for the planning group is the Rockaway/Broad Channel Coalition. The other priority is to expand the base of those involved.

“There are so many organizations in Rockaway – business owners, churches, synagogues – go to all of them and just let them know that this is out there and we want some input,” said one attendee. “The only way for our plan to be effective is to build a wide base. You have to communicate to the entire peninsula, and that should be our first priority.”

If there is an agreement to move ahead with the master plan, an architect and planners will need to be hired. To that end, DuPont has already contacted Queens Borough President Helen Marshall requesting that she put aside $100,000 in the 2011 budget for the development of a master plan. DuPont also sent similar letters to Councilmen James Sanders Jr. and Eric Ulrich requesting them to also set money aside in their budgets.

There have been several previous attempts to develop and file master plans with the city.

“The Community Board did one about 10 years ago for the waterfront,” said Jonathan Gaska, the district manager of CB 14. “We had community input and we gave it to the city and they stuck it somewhere.”

About 20 years ago the All Rockaway Planning Committee included the presidents of all local organizations.

“It involved the old Arverne Renewal area,” said Gaska.

While there was enthusiasm, there was caution.

Eve Baron, a planner from the Municipal Arts Society and Pratt Institute, described a 197-a plan as an “An official document that can guide. Yet it’s a blueprint, it’s advisory.”

Baron added that “there’s nothing in NYC law that says … the city has to abide by it.” But she also said it is a way to get a unified voice in the community.

According to the Department of City Planning’s website, since 1992 thirteen community plans have been approved. One from Manhattan was withdrawn and a plan from Queens was disapproved. Several plans were comprehensive to their entire neighborhoods, such as Greenpoint, and Red Hook in Brooklyn, while others – such as the Williamsburg Waterfront Plan in Brooklyn and the Stuyvesant Cove Plan in Manhattan – were waterfront related.

Members of civic or neighborhood groups can develop a 197-a plan, but it must be sponsored by a community board, borough board, the borough president, the City Planning Commission or the mayor.

It could be some time before a plan is approved or denied. It could take a year to two years to draw up a plan, submit it for environmental review, and then go through the necessary reviews by CB 14, the borough president, the City Planning Commission and the City Council.

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