CB 14 Gets Heated About Housing

Some view the month of January as a kickoff to a new start—but at Community Board 14’s meeting last night at the Knights of Columbus—it was a kickoff to more rancor over adding new housing units on the peninsula—whether it’s 2,330 by Alma Realty in the Seaside area or 40 in Far Rockaway with the developer being a local. Also, with the devastating flooding that consumed homes and cars, shutting down Christmas for many residents up and down the peninsula—the atmosphere at the Knights did not exude positive vibrations for the new year.

First the announcements. Senator James Sanders Jr.’s representative, AnnMarie Costella, announced that the Senator’s  sponsored, Foreclosure Process Abuse Prevention Act (FPAPA), has been signed by Governor Kathy Hochul. FPAPA institutes a six-year statute of limitations for which lenders can initiate legal action in foreclosure suits, preventing banks from indefinitely bringing foreclosure lawsuits against borrowers. Costella said, “With FPAPA, banks no longer can come after your house after a certain period of time. So, there’s now a six-year moratorium. If your house is in foreclosure, the bank has six years before they can come after you. Senator Sanders always said that it was ridiculous because the only law that we have in New York where there’s no moratorium is murder. This is a big weight off the shoulders of a lot of homeowners.”

Next, Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato’s office rep shared that “after a long two months with the state assembly election results still not concluded between Amato and her opponent, Tom Sullivan, Stacey has been reelected to another two-year term in the Assembly.” It took nearly two months, but the election was finally decided last Wednesday, January 4 with the incumbent Amato crowned the winner in the District 23 Assembly race by 15 votes. In addition, Pheffer Amato’s rep announced that the assemblywoman has been appointed the chair of the Government Employee Community Assembly, overseeing the pensions and retirement plans of civil service employees including police officers, firemen, teachers, transit and sanitation workers.

Councilwoman Joann Ariola’s office rep announced that the councilwoman has put in legislation for mile markers along Cross Bay Blvd. Also, applications are open for the Discretionary Funding Expense Application. This means that non-profit organizations who wish to apply for funding from the City Council can do so by filling out the forms. Submission deadline is February 21. Ariola’s office is also hosting a candy drive for veterans. For more info, contact Councilwoman Ariola’s office at (718) 318-6411.

During public speaking, local Bobby Zimmer, accompanied by other residents, came out to express his exasperation over Alma Realty’s plan to bring 2,300 additional residential units to Rockaway. Zimmer and other residents asked CB 14 to not support Alma’s plan. Currently, Alma manages several buildings along Shore Front Parkway in the Rockaway Park area.

Zimmer said, “Alma Realty wants to bring 6,000 more people to an already crowded area. The community doesn’t have the infrastructure to support that or enough emergency services to take care of residents. We don’t have another hospital. We don’t have a way of getting people ‘outta here in a hurry in the advent of a major storm. My heart goes out to the people in this audience, who suffered property damage from the most recent flooding. The sewers invited water into houses, and cars trying to get out, created waves on the streets. As a result, many people lost property. That should never happen. They could put man on the moon. They should know what they’re doing on our streets.”

Another resident added, “On Beach 108th, currently we can park on both sides of the street, but what about when an emergency vehicle has to come through. Now we want to bring in more cars? The other issue is that Alma is having meetings not open to the public. Several residents sat in on a meeting at The Rockaway Hotel, which was not public. They said we can sign up for following meetings. Twenty-five of us signed up, yet no one was contacted.”

The next hullabaloo over housing was about a local Far Rockaway resident, who owns a lot located at 2546 Far Rockaway Blvd. For over five years, he has been trying to get the necessary zoning approval to erect a five-story residential building, producing 40 housing units, 10 of which would be affordable housing with 22 parking spaces. The resident developer was accompanied by his lawyer and an environmental consultant. The lawyer stated, “We’re seeking to turn an R4-1 zone to an R-6E.” The character of R6 districts can range from neighborhoods with a diverse mix of building types and heights to large-scale “tower in the park” developments.

The lawyer stated, “Mr. Multry is an African American man. He’s the owner, developer, and general contractor on this project. He has owned this property as well as other properties in the area for the past 30 years. His father was a pastor of the local church for over 45 years. The Multrys plan to hire local at-risk youth for every aspect of the construction, as well as partner with local Stop the Violence programs to aid in the recruitment of those in need of training in all aspects of the construction project.”

It is at this point, that emotions ran high and select words were exchanged at CB 14.

One board member said, “During the first part of our meeting, we talked about the peninsula itself and the flooding and sinking. What’s going on? I’m still trying to figure out why people are still trying to build more and more on top of land at this point in time. What do you all know that we don’t? Why do people still want to build these high-rise buildings out here, knowing the current condition and what the condition for the next 10 to 15 years is going to be. What are we missing?”

Another piped up, “What does this get us? Nothing other than more development. We’re talking about it on the east end and the west end. Now, developers are working in the middle of Rockaway.”

One board member expressed her indignation about those not in support of the proposed project. “I know the city is giving you a hard time with the R5 to R6 rezoning. Now you’re committing yourself ‘cause you said you’re gonna manage this property, right? And you’re committing yourself to providing jobs for this community. It’s a shame that we’ve been through a lot of developers here who built hundreds and thousands of units, yet you’re getting the rough deal of it with just 40 units, not to mention you are a black man from the Rockaways,” she said.

Folks wrestled back and forth, but in the end, CB 14 moved to oppose the developer’s request to up-zone the property to R6-E, but support R5-E, and also request that the adjacent properties be removed from the rezoning.

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