2014-06-06 / Columnists

Arverne East Provides Unique Opportunity

Official Point of View

By Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder

Superstorm Sandy was a devastating event, but it provided us with the resources and attention that our community desperately needed.

After half a century of paralyzing economic decline, the once overlooked Arverne East site is again the topic of discussion and proposals are being presented for development. Arverne East is an opportunity for real community growth and to build a stronger Rockaway, but the process must be collaborative, inclusive and respectful of the concerns of every family.

We must ensure the channels of communication are open and every concern is adequately addressed before construction begins. I have reached out to the Arverne East developers, L&M, as well as the New York City Economic Development Corporation, inviting them to host a meeting with the public to engage community residents and hear ideas and concerns on the commercial and housing development proposals. We have already had a successful meeting in Bayswater and I am hoping to continue that in every community across the peninsula. While Arverne East is a project that stretches only 20 blocks from Beach 56th Street to Beach 32nd Street, this project will affect the entire peninsula. It is important that we listen to the concerns of residents in every community and ensure that they are included in the process and have a voice in the plans that will affect our neighborhoods.

We must put the proper protection in place and ensure any new development in Rockaway is built to withstand potential future storms and keep our new homes and businesses safe. The Arverne East RFP was last designed, pre-Sandy in 2003 and does not reflect the current needs of our community today. The city must invest in a formal Environmental Impact Assessment to determine exactly how the new development will impact our communities across the peninsula. Our families have been through enough these past two years and we cannot afford to put any families in harm’s way again. With the right information, we can build reliable infrastructure that will withstand any environmental impacts and keep our families protected.

The Arverne East project can be a huge asset to our community, but we cannot overlook many of the challenges that our community already faces daily that will only further put us at a disadvantage with the needs of a new population. Reliable and Affordable Transportation

In order to plan for the future of our growth, we must invest in vital transit infrastructure. In the immediate aftermath of Sandy, we experienced firsthand the detrimental impact that the lack of public transit had on our families. Utilizing Rockaway’s waterfront to create easy and efficient transportation is a nobrainer. I have fought hard and will continue to fight until the Rockaway ferry service is made permanent.

Another option to improve transportation is restoring the Rockaway Beach Rail Line. For years, I have been a staunch and vocal advocate of revitalizing the rail line. Beginning in the early ‘60s, parts of the railroad located in Southern Queens and Rockaway were consolidated, sectioned off and eventually closed. However, today the right of way for the rail line still remains intact and could potentially provide residents and visitors with safe, affordable and expedient access to other parts of the city with 40 minute commutes or less to Midtown Manhattan. Quality Accessible Healthcare

St. Johns Hospital is the only healthcare facility open to serve the entire peninsula and its emergency room is already overcrowded and struggling financially. We must ensure that our families have access to quality and accessible healthcare on the Rockaway Peninsula before any new families move in. Education

We must work with the Department of Education and surrounding schools to ensure our teachers are prepared and our children receive the quality education they deserve. Additionally, there must be a commitment to include the construction of a new school preferably with a focus on vocational training. This will put students on the right track and provide a pathway for high schoolers who want to enter highly specialized fields. Recreational & Community Space

Our communities already fall short when it comes to adequate park space and with any new development, we must include city parks and open space in our designs to help our communities stay vibrant and healthy.

Before shovels are in the ground, we need to ensure our community is prepared to handle any development that will attract more visitors and put a larger strain on our peninsula. Arverne by the Sea is the perfect example of a community collaboration and responsible development that included recreation and solid architectural design that was built to withstand the environmental impacts of owning a beachfront home.

I was born and raised in Rockaway and now I am raising my children here. I will fight to ensure that any development, commercial or residential, is appropriate and responsible with a strong emphasis on community involvement. So many of our families, including my own, are still recovering from the devastation caused by Sandy and we deserve to know that our community’s future is secure.

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