2011-12-30 / Top Stories

New Life For Rockaway Courthouse

By Nicholas Briano

The former Rockaway Courthouse located at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive. The former Rockaway Courthouse located at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive. A new proposal for the development of the former Rockaway Courthouse on the corner of Beach Channel Drive and Beach 90 Street, plans for which include transforming the building into a stateof the-art ambulatory surgical facility, was presented to a Community Board 14 subcommittee this week .

According to Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska, the developers have already met with the Rockaway Beach Civic Association which gave its stamp of approval to the project. The proposal, presented by The Harmony Group, will likely be presented before the community board in January. The board will dissect the plans and give its recommendations or complaints.

“With the downsizing and possible closure of Peninsula Hospital, coupled with the population rise in the Rock- aways, there is strong need for such a medical center,” The Harmony Group outlined in its proposal to CB 14.

According to the Group’s plans the facility would include a radiology/MRI group, LASIK performing eye doctors and several cosmetic surgeons.

The proposal estimates that the facility can provide up to 50 full-time medical industry jobs and provide an economic spark to the surrounding community.

One concern for Gaska is parking, but according to the plans, the Group would be interested in leasing parking spaces in the Knights of Columbus lot on Beach 90 Street.

In order for the project to move forward, the Harmony Group would need a Certificate of Need from the New York State Department of Health and approval by the New York City Economic Development Corporation and other city agencies.

The Harmony Group’s founder, Uri Kaufman, expressed interest in the courthouse back in 2004 but never followed through on his plans to transform the courthouse into a day care center and office space. Kaufman has more than 20 years of experience in performing adaptive re-use of historic buildings such as the old Rockaway Courthouse which has been vacant for more than 40 years.

The last and most favorable idea, to many in the community, stirring around the courthouse was suggested several years ago when Queens Borough President Helen Marshall proposed turning the courthouse into “CUNY by the Sea,” a college facility that was conceived of to focus its training on grooming prospective teachers. That idea, unfortunately, also fell through the cracks.

“I think the dream in the community and what actually happens is always two different things,” Gaska said. “CUNY would have been nice.

There was always a vision for some type of town hall or community center. But it’s vacant and it doesn’t seem like anyone is interested in developing this land. I am interested however, to see what the community would think of this.”

The proposal states the construction can commence 10 months after the land is sold to them by EDC and the project itself would take up to 16 months to complete. Financing will be provided via a commercial loan and syndication of historic and new market tax credits.

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