2014-02-07 / Columnists

Official Point Of View

2014 Is The Year Of The Rockaways
By Councilman Donovan Richards

It’s poetic that we’re finally set to cut the ribbon on the much-anticipated Rockaway YMCA on Valentine’s Day. I’ve had the honor of touring the building and I can tell you right now that our community is going to be blown away with all of the love that went into our new facility. While some may see this as just a rec center, it symbolizes a much greater victory for our community. Also, with my recent nomination as chair of NYC’s Environmental Protection Committee, we’re finally on track to resolve flooding issues that have plagued Southern Queens for generations. The signs are everywhere, Rockaway is truly coming back better than ever.

When Hurricane Sandy devastated our community, no one could have anticipated the countless opportunities that would wash ashore as we rebuilt. In December, the Bloomberg Administration left our community a parting gift in the form of a brand new Workforce 1 Center in Far Rockaway Library, one of my main focuses as we rebuilt after the storm. My office was successful in pressuring the city to speed up major infra- structure projects on Pinson Street and Bay 32nd Street, where more than $33 million has been allocated to resolve serious flooding issues.

Ocean Village has received a $60 million upgrade, which is turning it into a premier development. My office has even been working with Rita Stark, the owner of the Thriftway Mall, and we were able to help facilitate as a major retail chain signed a lease to open later this year.

These victories are just the beginning of what’s shaping up to be a fantastic year for Rockaway. With development in the works for over 80 acres of desolate land in Arverne, we have an opportunity to redevelop our shoreline into something previously unimaginable. We’re looking at a hotbed of local jobs, entertainment, affordable housing, retail, and possibly even a vocational school. This project has the chance to turn an underutilized oasis in our community into both a travel destination and a local economic engine. We’re in the midst of working out a Community Benefits Agreement to ensure this project is a huge win for Rockaway.

While everyone knows Rockaway will be getting a brand new boardwalk, I would like to highlight the efforts of my office and Community Board 14’s District Manager Jonathon Gaska in ensuring that residents will be hired to rebuild it. With $20 billion coming through hurricane ravaged communities over the next few years, it’s critical that we create opportunities for local hiring. My office will be teaming up with the Economic Development Corporation to announce local hiring locations for the boardwalk jobs soon.

Although we’re in the midst of some major improvements, there is always more work to be done. While I applaud the de Blasio Administration for extending the Rockaway ferry, the east end of the Rockaways also needs a stop. The need for more schools and healthcare facilities is obvious and will only become more apparent as we grow as a community. These are two of the many issues I will continue to be on top of in the upcoming years.

As Winston Churchill once said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.” While Rockaway has gone through some very troubling times, we always push through. Even as we rebuild our homes, businesses, and lives, we do it with the knowledge that we have bright days ahead. 2014 will continue to be a big year for us because there is no challenge that Rockaway can’t overcome. As always, I look forward to building together.

Donovan Richards is a Democrat representing the 31st District in the New York City Council

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