How Arverne East Is Cementing Dreams for Locals

 How Arverne East Is Cementing Dreams for Locals

By Kami-Leigh Agard

For longtime Rockaway resident Melody Mobley, working hands-on in the construction of the Arverne East Nature Preserve wasn’t just about a dollar, but a dream. And for her and fellow locals enrolled in the workforce program of the multifaceted mega development, they not only received a variety of free certified trainings required to step foot onto not just Arverne East, but any construction site—including OSHA, Site and Safety Training (SST), and more in the industry, but today they are all gainfully employed. As Mobley frankly shared, “You have to use the resources around you. And I’m not one to turn down free resources. Do you know how much it costs to get OSHA training, and to do it right in your neighborhood for free?”

Arverne East—touted as NYC’s first upcoming net zero community—is a multi-faceted development on the trajectory to transform the 116-acre vacant, oceanfront site between Beach 32nd Street to Beach 56th Place along Edgemere Avenue into an oasis of long-awaited comforts. Once complete, the project’s massive scope includes: 1,650 units of mix-income housing, (including townhomes, bungalows and mid-rise multifamily residences); a main retail corridor connecting the 36th Street A train subway station to the beach, anchored by a full-production brewery and restaurant operated by the Rockaway Brewing Company; and a beachfront hotel. The project will also include diverse neighborhood retail, a community center, and outdoor public open spaces.

The recently completed and fully opened 35-acre Nature Preserve, which Mobley initially worked in landscaping, and for the past year, has been employed as a security guard, is managed by the NYC Parks Dept. between Beach 44th Street and Beach 56th Place. The Reserve boasts a new welcome center, park ranger office, comfort station, and a community space.

However, as grandiose as the scope of Arverne East, for Sara Levenson, senior director of the project at L+M Development Partners, the crown jewel of the project is community engagement, especially in leveraging the construction careers and continued gainful employment of locals like Mobley.

Levenson said, “On any given day from a development standpoint, we’re constantly thinking about resiliency and energy efficiency. However, even more importantly, we also think quite a bit about economic development and what this project is going to mean for the community, and our local efforts to empower residents: Leveraging the project from a workforce standpoint, but also, from a community standpoint; making sure that we’re delivering a high-quality project that is energy efficient and provides the services and opportunities residents deserve and need.”

Jennifer Fraticelli is the Workforce and Contractor Diversity Senior Manager at L+M Development Partners and has been overseeing the development’s workforce program. She said, “Our general contractor for the just-completed Nature Preserve is Royalton Development Corporation. This project was not typically something we would do as L+M’s bread and butter is really affordable housing. So, this was something that was completely different for us, but Royalton really stepped up, and they hired 12 people in the local community directly from our target zip codes: 11691, 11692, and 11693. And four of those individuals have found permanent homes with Royalton. They are now working on the fence and farm portion of Arverne East, and another is working elsewhere with Royalton on another project outside of Rockaway.

“However, when work picks up, he’s going to come back to his home in Far Rockaway. So, all of them who came through our training program have received permanent positions.”

According to Levenson and Fraticelli, all 12 recruits for the workforce program came through local community-based organizations (CBOs), Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation (RDRC), Church of God Christian Academy and Ocean Bay CDC.

Just this past September, Councilwoman Selvena N. Brooks-Powers held a Construction Hiring Hall event, at which L+M representatives were in attendance with six of their subcontractors representing the following trades: superstructure concrete/foundation, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, carpentry, and roadwork. L+M also coordinated with CBOs to speak with community members interested in OSHA training. Twenty-seven people expressed interest, and L+M is currently organizing a construction training cohort in January for these individuals.

According to Levenson, a critical complement of the workforce program was also to incorporate “soft skills” training. She said, “We want applicants to get familiar with resumes, how to interview and what it means to have full time employment. We look at each applicant’s individual situation at home. We ask questions like: ‘How are you going to get to the job site?’ ‘Do you need childcare?’

“The goal is to provide them with the support and additional structure that is required to succeed and attain sustained careers. Our goal is to train as many people as possible and give them the leverage they need not to just get a job, but sustainable careers.”

As for why Mobley’s dream was to work in construction, she boiled it down to her dad. “My dad was a jack-of-all trades and I loved learning and working with him. So, when I heard about this workforce program through RDRC, I wanted to do it. It was a dream, and through this program, I got to make it a reality,” Mobley said.

She added, “I always recommend young people to take advantage of these programs. When you complete the courses and get those certificates, the program doesn’t just leave you, they help you find a job. I even got my driver’s license. So, it’s a plus all the way around. I just wish more people would take advantage of these opportunities when they come along. My advice is just make sure you have the passion and love for what you decide to do. You have to not just like it but love it.”

For current updates on the Arverne East project, visit: And to find out about L+M’s Workforce and job training and opportunities, visit:

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