By Jonathan Sperling
So far, New York City has upheld its affordable housing commitments in Far Rockaway.
Nearly a year after the City Council voted to approve a massive upzoning in Downtown Far Rockaway, District 31 Council Member Donovan Richards joined several city agencies yesterday to announce the planned construction of 670 units of affordable housing across two projects.
“Today’s announcement is another step in the direction of progress for Downtown Far Rockaway,” said Richards in a statement. “The Beach 21st Street lot will be transformed into quality affordable housing for working families along with retail and community space to help lift up residents and local nonprofits delivering services to our community. As with every project in the Rockaways, we will work with the developer to ensure that we address the highest community needs, such as daycare services, good jobs and quality retail.”
The rezoning plan will introduce taller and larger residential buildings to a region hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy, but community members said they worried the new development would price out longtime residents and usher in a wave of gentrification, as has been the case in several other historically underserved neighborhoods through the city.
In March, Laura Jurewicz of the Far Rockaway Youth Task Force, a community-based youth advocacy organization, told City Limits she worried about “affordability” would be defined in such projects.
“This area does need development, but people are just generally scared about gentrification and being priced out,” Jurewicz told City Limits.
The two projects could help allay those concerns among residents like Jurewicz by preserving affordable housing in the neighborhood, said Eric Enderlin, the president of the Housing Development Corporation.
“These projects are tangible demonstrations of the city coming through on its commitment to revitalize Downtown Far Rockaway through comprehensive rezoning and resilient design, all while ensuring long-term affordability that will benefit the community for generations to come,” Enderlin said.
The City said it had selected The Community Builders Inc., a nonprofit affordable housing developer, to transform a City-owned lot on Beach 21st Street into 224 units of mixed-income affordable housing, commercial space and community facilities.
Representatives from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the HDC also announced that the agencies had recently closed on construction financing for 457 units of affordable housing for the Far Rockaway Village project. The large-scale project on the site of an abandoned shopping center will include a mix of affordable housing, retail space and public areas will serve as a downtown center, the City said.
Earlier this month, the Queens Daily Eagle reported that mortgage lending giant Fannie Mae would provide a $26 million Low Income Home Tax Credit investment to aid in the construction of the 457-unit Far Rockaway Village complex. The two-tower development will consist of 227 LIHTC units for residents earning between 30 and 60 percent of the area median income , while an additional 184 apartments will be reserved for residents earning around 70 percent of AMI. The remaining 46 units will be priced at 30 percent of AMI and will be intended for individuals who were formerly homeless.
The new developments are made possible by last September’s rezoning, which was passed unanimously by the City Council after Richards gave his approval.
Community members can keep track of the city’s rezoning progress on the newly released “Rezoning Commitments Tracker,” an interactive map that allows users to hold the city accountable for its commitments to affordable housing, public space, community resources, workforce development, transportation and infrastructure as outlined in the rezoning proposal. By clicking on a specific commitment, users can check the status, completion timeline and the managing city agency in addition to a short project summary.
The tracker tool also displays concurrent the status of rezoning commitments in East Harlem, East New York, Greater East Midtown and along Jerome Avenue in the Bronx.