A beautiful day outside on Beach 116th Street and a packed house inside at Cuisine by Claudette were perfect backdrops to the announcement that storefronts on the street would be getting a facelift. Thanks to grant monies made available by the Mayor’s Fund and Citi (Citibank) Community Development, Beach 116th Street shop owners may apply for grants up to $20,000 to upgrade and beautify their storefronts in what was called a “storefront improvement initiative.”
Additionally, Rob Walsh, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS), said his agency and other city departments will help Beach 116th Street by adding new shrubbery, plants, better lighting, and urban artwork in an effort to make the commercial strip “cleaner, safer, and brighter.”
Walsh noted the hard work by so many merchants and the improvement the street has seen since Sandy and stressed the importance of “momentum.” With that, he announced that the newly formed 116th Street Merchants Association will be getting $75,000 in grant money from the SBS.
Deputy Mayor Robert Steel also addressed the crowd and said he and Mayor Bloomberg saw firsthand the devastation caused by Sandy and vowed to make Rockaway come back stronger than ever. He mentioned the importance of “momentum” as well and said of federal funding, “more help is on the way,” and that “long term resiliency and infrastructure plans are coming.”
Liz Smith-Breslin, owner of the Blue Bungalow, said her dream was to make Beach 116th Street “not only a great street for locals but a destination” for those off the peninsula. She concluded by riffing on the Ramones. She said visitors will be saying, “It’s not hard, not far to reach. You can hitch a ride to Rockaway Beach.”
Walsh praised Smith-Breslin for her persistence in staying after Small Business Services to help the merchants of the block. Walsh also took time to address the bigger challenge of the block. He said beautifying storefronts and making the street safer can be done in the short term and that “then we can deal with the mess across the street,” referring to the hotels, theater and vacant storefronts.
Cuisine by Claudette has become an official meeting place for merchants and many turned out for the announcements. Most seemed encouraged by the City’s newfound interest in Rockaway. Still, a few said they’ll believe the changes when they see it and another added, “Enough with the thank yous. I’ve gotta get back to work.”
Other potential good news came from Dorothy Lewandowski of New York City Parks who reaffirmed that beaches, concession stands, and comfort stations would be open Memorial Day weekend.
The potential good news for Beach 116th Street was heard in Rockaway Beach and Far Rockaway. Merchants from both areas asked, “Hey, what about us?”