Downtown Far Rockaway Development Plan Clears City Planning

Rendering of Queens Far Rockaway Branch Public Library by Snøhetta. Image credit: NYC EDC

The City Planning Commission approved the 22-block development plan for the Far Rockaway neighborhood in Queens. On July 10, 2017, the City Planning Commission approved an application by the New York City Economic Development Corporation for the Downtown Far Rockaway Development Plan. The Development Plan includes the designation of the Downtown Far Rockaway Urban Renewal Area, the disposition of city-owned property, and zoning text and map amendments. The community planning process was led by Council Member Donovan Richards. Currently, $110 million of public investments are transforming Downtown Far Rockaway with streetscape reconstruction, sewer upgrades, park improvements, storefront improvement, and library upgrades.

Far Rockaway is on the easternmost part of the Rockaway peninsula in Queens. The zoning of the neighborhood has remained largely unchanged since the adoption of the Zoning Resolution in 1961, and prevents residential development along major corridors where swathes of land are zoned for commercial or light manufacturing purposes. In areas where residential zoning exists, building heights and density are limited.

The multiple land use actions in the Development Plan were proposed by the Economic Development Corporation in conjunction with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Department of Citywide Administrative Services. The proposals would affect a 22-block area bounded by Nameoke Avenue to the north, Caffrey Avenue to the south, Beach 22nd Street, Beach Channel Drive and Redfern Avenue to the west, and Gateway Boulevard to the east.

The rezoning proposed would allow residential uses throughout the area to facilitate mixed-use developments and allow housing on major thoroughfares. The 22 blocks would be designated as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Area mapped with both Option 1 and Option 2 for affordable housing options. The Special Downtown Far Rockaway District would be established to modify regulations like floor area ratio, street wall heights, setback depths, maximum building height, location of uses, and accessory off-street parking. The designation of an Urban Renewal Area in Far Rockaway would allow for the City to purchase lots within the area and transfer that city-owned properties to developers.

On March 29, 2017, Queens Community Board 14 voted 26-2 to recommend approval of the application with conditions. The conditions centered on limiting the upzoning, building a new elementary school and park, more affordability for the new housing, and more parking. On May 11, 2017, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz issued a favorable report for the application.

In its report, the Planning Commission found the Downtown Far Rockaway Development Plan to be appropriate. The Commission stated that it believed “that this strategy will provide much-needed affordable housing to current and future residents, facilitate a broader mix of commercial offerings, and enhance the public realm to help attract shoppers and improve the quality of life within the neighborhood.”

CPC: Downtown Far Rockaway Development Plan (C 170243A ZMQ; N 170244A ZRQ; N 170245 HGQ; C 170246 HUQ; C 170247 HDQ; C 170248 PPQ) (July 10, 2017).

By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).

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