Alma Proposal Becomes Top Topic at March CB14 Meeting

By Katie McFadden

It was a rare, packed house at the Knights of Columbus on Tuesday night for the monthly Community Board 14 meeting. And most people weren’t there for the good news that the brand-new Far Rockaway Library is expected to open this summer, but rather to stand strongly against Alma’s proposal to build four buildings up to 24 stories tall on the land where the Surfside buildings currently stand in Rockaway Park.

New CB14 District Manager Felicia Johnson began the meeting making a joke about the turnout for her first official meeting in the new position, after serving on the board as a member for 20 years.

Johnson announced that the City Planning Commission recently voted to approve the Economic Opportunity portion of City of Yes despite most community boards rejecting it. It will now go to a vote in the full city council. She also announced that of the 77 cannabis shop licenses that have been approved for the state, none have been approved for Rockaway yet. She has announced that representatives from the MTA will be at the Beach 116th subway station to seek input on their Queens Bus Network redesign plan on Wednesday, April 3 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and encouraged folks to give their feedback.

A representative from DSNY was there to remind people that as of March 1, all businesses must place their garbage in bins with closed lids. There is a warning period until April 1, when fines will start being issued. Captain Timothy Schultz of the 101st Precinct said people will see more police presence on the subway system. He also said they have been working with the DOT and the Arverne East developer to adjust the traffic light at Beach 37th Street, as there have been backups on the road detour there. He also said that there has been a decrease in vehicle thefts. Captain Carol Hamilton of the 100th Precinct said the same, as both precincts have been working together to crack down on grand larceny auto incidents. Hamilton announced certain Hyundais and Kias have been a target as part of a TikTok challenge, and they will be hosting another AirTag and wheel lock giveaway for certain vehicles to help combat theft.

A representative from Congressman Gregory Meeks’ office announced that NY now has a program where people can file their federal and state tax online for free at:

Dan Brown of District Attorney Melinda Katz’ office reminded people that she has put out an RFP for registered nonprofits that work with youth groups to apply for funding. Last time, seven Rockaway nonprofits received funding. More info can be found at Katz is also working hard to confiscate illegal motorized scooters. A representative for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said the application process for community boards has ended and they received 592 new applications.

Representatives for Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and Councilwoman Joann Ariola were on hand to read their statements opposing Alma’s proposal. While Pheffer Amato will have no direct say in the ULURP process for the city application, she said, “I completely oppose this plan,” citing the massive development the peninsula has already seen while there’s insufficient infrastructure to support it. Ariola will have a say as council member in the ULURP process. Her representative Margaret Powers said, “Councilwoman Ariola stands firmly united with SHAFT, opposing Alma’s development plans for Surfside. Alma’s track record for neglecting current tenants raises serious concerns of the ability to care for future projects.”

Next, the room was open to public speaking, where a majority stepped up to discuss Alma’s proposal. Since 21 people signed up to speak, everyone was given a limit of two minutes. Barbara Buffolino, president of SHAFT, the housing association representing Surfside, gave some more information about Alma’s plan. “The threat of this Alma development has been happening for years. Now it’s a reality. They’ve scheduled a Zoom meeting with City Planning. This is the beginning of a long fight against four 24-story towers, town houses, commercial space, a parking garage, and a lot more that’s gonna swallow up the neighborhood and bury the current Surfside property that serves 2,000 people. This will add 2,000 more units, that’s at least 6,000 more people between Beach 105th and 108th.”

Zack Malik, who said he’s working with Alma Realty clarified that no application has been filed yet. “We’re still a year away from the ULURP process,” he said. But he added, an environmental review of the project has begun for the city to look into what the environmental impact of the project will be.

Other residents of Surfside provided reasons they oppose the project. Among them was that Alma doesn’t “adequately maintain the three buildings that presently exist,” one woman said. Others include health issues caused by construction and the burden on schools and traffic with additional people in the neighborhood. One resident who identified herself as a musician and sound scientist said things such as the noise from 2,000 additional air conditioning units, will have adverse impacts on residents. Karen Nevirs, also a member of SHAFT called Alma, “Bad actors.” She explained, “Alma Corp. has a track record. Adams had brought a lawsuit against them for other properties they own in the city. What Alma has proposed can be our demise. This development greed is causing harm to our peninsula.”

Neighbors from the condo on Beach 108th Street expressed concerns over emergency vehicles not being able to get down their block as is, witnessing several driving on sidewalks to get by. “With 10,000 more people, that’s going to be a much bigger issue,” one neighbor said. As a public-school principal, he added that there are plans in the state to downsize classrooms, and neighboring Waterside School won’t be able to handle the additional students. Another neighbor, who is a landscape architect, expressed concerns over the 24-story buildings. “Our light and space will be taken away and once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Once this zoning gets approved, others will follow. I don’t see the developers giving anything back to our neighborhoods in exchange for this,” she said.

Chairwoman Dolores Orr reminded the guests that since June 2022, Community Board 14 has a moratorium against any development that requires upzoning, and when this comes before them as part of the ULURP process, the board will likely unanimously reject it because of that. However, she reminded everyone that the board is only advisory, and many things they have rejected, the city has gone through with anyway.

Following public speaking, representatives from Queens Public Library and NYC DDC discussed the brand new, long awaited Far Rockaway Library. The reps said they are currently outfitting the new space at 1937 Central Ave with furniture and installing the proper IT infrastructure. From March 30 through April 15, the temporary location currently being used, will be closed to move the roughly 28,000 books to the new space. The new library several desktop computers, plus an additional 30 laptops to use. It will include a community space where meetings can be held. It will have nine staff members. They expect the new library to open sometime this summer.

Sam Fleischner and Courtney Miller of the Rockaway Film Festival said they’re entering their seventh year and plan to open the outdoor Arverne Cinema on April 21. The film festival will be August 17-25 and they are seeking submissions. They’re also working on finding locations for a more permanent indoor location that would give them the ability to share films year-round.

Ohel Children’s Home and Family Services, located at 156 Beach 9th Street, was on hand to request permission to integrate more Substance Use Disorder (SUD) services along with their current mental health services, by expanding their space in their building for SUD services, after they received a grant to do so. A motion was made to support the expansion. Five board members voted no, but with a majority voting in support, the motion carried.


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