2012-01-13 / Top Stories

CB14 Accepts New Courthouse Proposal

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. The recent proposal for the development of the former Rockaway Courthouse into an ambulatory surgical facility was approved this week by Community Board 14, which allows the developer to move forward with negotiations to obtain the property from the city.

The courthouse, located on the corner of Beach Channel Drive and Beach 90 Street, would be developed by The Harmony Group, which is known for transforming historic buildings such as the courthouse into commercial and residential spaces.

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. In order for the center to be built, staffed and operational, however, the developer needs to obtain a certificate of need from the New York State Department of Health. In the developer’s plans is also the need to address parking; they have expressed interest in leasing parking spaces from the Knights of Columbus lot on Beach 90 Street.

Harmony Group’s founder, Uri Kauf man, told the board this week that he is confident that a certificate will be obtained, allowing them to move forward in obtaining the land from the city.

“It’s been many years since the Rockaways was given a certificate of need,” he said. “This is a beneficial project for doctors and the community and a certificate of need is possible to obtain.”

With CB14’s approval of the proposal, Kaufman can now attempt to secure the certificate of need which would then allow him to negotiate the purchase of the land from the city. Once construction is complete, the developer will rent the space to a group of 13 to 15 doctors. According to the presentation, three peninsula-based doctors have already agreed to utilize the space as well as 10 to 12 additional doctors from off the peninsula.

According to Kaufman, Peninsula Hospital Center is in support of the plan as they feel it will allow them to accept more patients as doctors use this facility to perform various surgeries instead of taking up space inside the hospital.

A minority of board members were leery of the project and its benefit to the community, but were reminded that although they had a more community oriented plan for the building, no one has come forth with a solid plan to develop the site other than Kaufman. Ultimately, the board decided at the end of the presentation to give the green light to Kaufman to move forward with his plans. Before the center could be built however, the plans need additional approval by the New York City Economic Development Corporation as well as other city agencies including another review by the Community Board. This hurdle was clearly the first in several steps for the courthouse to be redeveloped one day.

Kaufman, initially 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. The last and most favorable idea, to many on the community board, was to turn the courthouse into a “CUNY by the Sea” college facility. Those plans, however, never came to fruition.

According to Kaufman’s proposal 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. “This is a once in a generation opportunity to bring this building back,” Kaufman told the board. “It will serve the community for many years to come.”

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