2011-06-17 / Community

Community Board 14 Approves RWA Firehouse

By Nicholas Briano

Recent artist rendering of the RWA firehouse project. Recent artist rendering of the RWA firehouse project. Community Board 14 gave their stamp of approval on Tuesday night for the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance to acquire a former Arverne firehouse in order to convert it into an environmental center.

The plans include a place for RWA to host school-year-round after school programs for more than 60 kids per day at the facility. They also plan to utilize the property for senior-based activities and adult training programs.

The city still has to hand over the firehouse located at Beach 59 Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard to RWA, who will then be financially responsible for the $4 million construction of the center. To date, the group has only raised about half of the money needed for construction. They anticipate, however, that fundraising will increase significantly once the city hands over the building to them which they believe will happen in the fall. Contributions have totaled just over $2 million with $1.5 million coming from Borough President Helen Marshall.

“It’s difficult to fundraise when you don’t have a building yet,” RWA President Jeanne DuPont said.

A representative from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) said they will hand the building over to RWA even if the funding is not 100 percent secured. HPD, the representative said on Tuesday, is willing to hand over the building with about 75 percent of the funding secured. At that point they can confidently project that RWA will raise the remaining funds.

But due to ballooning costs the RWA has scrapped its plans for a rooftop garden. They still plan to extend elevators and stairs to the roof, leaving that option open to explore at a later date.

DuPont says that they plan to rent out the second floor of the facility to an organization that shares their vision and is closely related to what they do.

The city awarded the firehouse to RWA in March 2009. Once RWA secures all the funding needed for the project, construction time is anticipated to take 12 to 15 months to complete.

Discussion briefly arose among Community Board members about the proposal of a vocational school at that location that had been led by Councilmember James Sanders Jr. The board collectively agreed that a school is needed but they also felt the firehouse would not be large enough to accommodate it.

Community Board 14 Chairperson Dolores Orr says a vocational school was discussed for years but no one ever stepped forward with a solid plan and course of action to actually build it.

“No one ever came forward with a plan for the vocational school,”’ Orr said. “So why should we reject this plan in place for something else.”

Community Board member Vince Castellano was the only member of the board to vote against the RWA acquisition.

“I am in favor of a vocational school. We need to follow our priorities and accommodate RWA somewhere else.”

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