2013-03-22 / Community

Arverne East Gets New Look By Community, Developer

By Miriam Rosenberg

Developer Steve Bluestone, second from left, listens as a group of residents discuss their ideas for Arverne East. Developer Steve Bluestone, second from left, listens as a group of residents discuss their ideas for Arverne East. Arverne East, a project that was originally introduced to Rockaway residents in 2007 but was put on hold because of the economic crisis may have gotten a new life. Students enrolled in the Master of Urban Planning program at NYU Wagner School of Public Service have been working with the Rockaway Waterfront Alliance since September to develop new ideas for the project.

Arverne East developers Steven Bluestone of The Bluestone Organization, Inc and Lisa Gomez of L & M Development Partners are showing renewed interest as well since the storm and the release of advisory flood maps. The Wave spoke with Bluestone and Gomez after a recent workshop about the future of the project.

“We’re studying the FEMA maps. We’re working with HPD [Housing Preservation and Development] to figure out post-Sandy.” said Gomez, the Executive Vice President of Development at L & M. She added, “The new maps have been out about two or three weeks. We’re looking at those. We’re working to figure out what type of mitigation is appropriate. What can be built and should be built given what community residents are interested in and the realities of the economy today.”

Bluestone, who has been to several meetings in Rockaway since the storm said, “Essentially we’re re-evaluating everything right now. Given the economy, given the storm, we’re revisiting everything and that’s why we’re here.”

One thing that stood out during the session was that most of the people who attended believed there was already enough housing in the area. As reported in The Wave in April 2009, the original Arverne East plan included a mixed use housing proposal for 1,650 units of housing, with affordable and market rate housing, as well as condos in mid- and low-rise buildings.

Other ideas from residents included the need for updated infrastructure and drainage systems, seawalls, dune replenishment, another supermarket, landscaping, and more schools.

“A lot of these ideas are ideas that have been discussed and bounced around and we really hope that something actually comes to fruition,” Felicia Johnson, a member of Community Board 14 told the students. “It was really a great exercise.”

Jeanne Dupont, the president of the RWA picked the area to center on before the storm.

“You have a long piece of land that is completely vacant, so you have a clean slate and this community that lives here can now start to really address what we need in this area,” said Dupont. She added that, “Now with the storm it’s like we are really starting from scratch. You have new FEMA maps, new government agencies looking at this area in a very different way. We have the developers who are very interested in doing something and something that the community wants – there’s a lot of opportunity to go back to the table.”

The students will write a report based on all their research and meetings and it will be posted on the RWA website. It will also be given to the different agencies and developers.

The 2007 proposal also included a 100,000-square-foot hotel, a nature preserve and up to 250,000 square feet of retail space. The development was to run from Beach 32 to Beach 44 Streets, between the Rockaway Freeway and the beachfront. Construction was expected to be completed sometime after 2012.

Also at the meeting in an observing role was Michael Polo, the deputy director of the Division of New Construction of the city’s Housing, Preservation and Development.

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