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With new plan, NYC seeks to revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway

City Terrain Development East Newsletter Urbanism
Snøhetta's Far Rockaway Branch Library, which is slated for opening in late 2019. It's located within the Downtown Far Rockaway's rezoned area. (Courtesy Snøhetta)
Snøhetta's Far Rockaway Branch Library, which is slated for opening in late 2019. It's located within the Downtown Far Rockaway's rezoned area. (Courtesy Snøhetta)

In a nearly unanimous vote, on July 10th the City Planning Commission approved the rezoning and revitalization plan for Downtown Far Rockaway in Queens, as first reported by CityLand.

The plan aims to re-establish Downtown Far Rockaway as the peninsula’s commercial and transportation hub through new zoning that encourages mixed-use development, new public spaces, improved pedestrian walkways, and better access to community services. It’s also one of several neighborhood rezonings in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to build more affordable housing.

Downtown Far Rockaway is the historic commercial core of the peninsula: located near Rockaway Beach and Jamaica Bay, it’s serviced by stops on the A train as well as the LIRR. The area has not been rezoned since the 1961 Zoning Resolution that subsequently prevented residential developments in the commercial and manufacturing zones that feature extensively in the area. Downtown Far Rockaway also has few local employment opportunities, little open space, and poor pedestrian access.

Rezoning, which is the plan’s backbone, would foster new residential and mixed-use developments, especially on the area’s larger streets. One part of Far Rockaway would also be designated an Urban Renewal Area, which would enable the City to purchase and transfer properties to developers.

The “roadmap for action” plan also aims to incorporate the current community by improving existing commercial spaces and local businesses as well as increasing accessibility to job training, education, and community services. According to CityLand, the city is already investing $100 million in the area, with improvements including “streetscape reconstruction, sewer upgrades, park improvements, storefront improvement, and library upgrades.”

The plan was passed with conditions that include community-based project labor, a new school and park, and limits on up-zoning. Additionally, a 22-block area (bounded by Caffrey Avenue, Redfern Avenue, Nameoke Avenue, Beach 22nd Street, and Gateway Boulevard) would be designated for Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.

The final vote will be made by Major de Blasio, who has already indicated his support of local neighborhood rezoning and revitalization plans.

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