2013-06-14 / Community

A Vision For 116th Street

Volunteer Architects Offer Future Path
By Norm Scott

A 4-person team of volunteers from the American Institute of Architects published a report at the tail end of a 4-day trip to Rockaway over the June 7th weekend. The group, part of AIA’s Regional and Urban Design Assistance Teams (r/udaT) held two town hall meetings. The first, on June 7th, attracted a large crowd on a very rainy night to the PS 114 cafeteria where they were divided into groups to brainstorm storm-related issues and envision solutions. The team took those suggestions and returned to PS 114 on Monday, June 10th, another rainy night, where they shared some of the powerful ideas they came up with on their short visit. Many in the audience were impressed with the local knowledge gleaned in such a short time by these out-of-towners who made the point that they had no place to stay in Rockaway, it being one of the few beach communities they had run across without hotel facilities.

The June 10th meeting focused on Beach 116th Street’s redesign, stabilization and a plan for implementation. The report focused on both ends of the street. Some highlights: The bay end would get a ferry terminal, the Duane Reade would be moved to the parking lot facing Waldbaum’s and replaced with an 80-room boutique hotel. The Beach Channel Drive/116th intersection would be replaced by a roundabout which would funnel traffic in a way that they claim will actually increase the flow. (There were some objections from the audience during the Q&A when people pointed out the architects were not visiting during the height of summer.) The beach end would get a 120 room hotel on the east side, with a theater and a parking deck.

One of the most interesting aspects of hearing from the team was that they were all from out of town and had never been to Rockaway before. One woman from Alabama said that seeing the view of Manhattan from the bay side of Beach 116th Street was breathtaking. It was clear that they saw all that Rockaway has to offer.

They didn’t stop at just offering a plan but offered ideas for implementation. Given the current Sandyrelated consciousness and monies coming in, this is an ideal time for this one-time deal. And they pointed out that if the Rockaway community misses the window of opportunity to compete for some of this money, the opportunity will be lost, probably forever.

It was clear that the burden is on us when someone from the audience asked, “Where is this plan going? What officials are getting it?”

“You are getting the report,” was the response. The essence was “do not wait for officials but organize yourselves as a community.” For instance, form a Business Improvement District (BID). There was mention of a new Beach 116th Merchants Association that is in the best position to spearhead this effort. There is money to hire an executive director – the single most important thing to do – getting the right person in that position to lead the effort. And lots of volunteers to do the hard work. I’m ready. The entire presentation can be viewed at: www.aia.org/aiaucmp/groups/aia/documents/pdf/aiab099137.pdf

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