TODAY'S PAPER

Far Rockaway Shopping Center sign doesn’t make it into redevelopment project

The shopping center's sign will not be part of the new development on Mott Avenue in Far Rockaway, despite some wanting to save it. Photo Credit: Lisa L. Colangelo

This sign is just about out of time.

The old-school, 1960s-era blue sign outside the Far Rockaway Shopping Center will be history when the decrepit retail hub is demolished in the coming months to make way for a new housing and commercial development.

For decades the massive marquee loomed large over Mott Avenue, a reminder of better times when lively shops filled the now empty storefronts.

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But the sign’s retro charm does not seem to have a place in plans for the new pedestrian plaza, retail and housing complex known as Far Rockaway Village.

When the city’s Planning Commission reviewed plans for the site, no public push to keep the sign materialized, according to officials from the Planning Department. Instead, testimony focused on how to transform the center, which features a design that is itself a relic of sorts, with a large parking lot framed by one-story of retail.

Still, some argue incorporating the center’s trademark sign into the new development would offer a nod to the area’s evolution.

“It’s an iconic sign; it should be restored and placed somewhere within the project,” said Jonathan Gaska, the longtime district manager of Queens Community Board 14, whose office overlooks the shopping center. “It would just be a really cool thing to do.”

Its design is simple. The words “Shopping Center” are featured in white script on a circular, royal blue background. It is topped by a smaller sign reading “Far Rockaway.” These days that portion of the sign is covered by flags announcing that Dunkin’ Donuts is still open, and that Food Dynasty is having a closing sale.

Why the sprawling shopping center sat mostly vacant for years is one of the great mysteries of Far Rockaway.

Landlord Rita Stark inherited the property from her father and allowed it to deteriorate. When merchants left, they were not replaced.

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There were some improvements in more recent years as the old Associated supermarket was renovated and transformed into a Food Dynasty in 2012 and a Dunkin’ Donuts opened in 2015.

Stark, who died in 2016, was known for ignoring efforts to renovate and redevelop her extensive portfolio of properties in Queens, including the Far Rockaway Shopping Center.

“This was supposed to be the anchor of the community, and it was largely abandoned for 40 years,” City Councilman Donovan Richards Jr. told amNewYork in March, when plans for Far Rockaway Village were unveiled.

The project involves demolishing the shopping center and replacing it with roughly 1,700 units of affordable housing, a public plaza and ground floor retail space.

While many officials hailed the plan as a long-overdue revamp of Far Rockaway’s rundown, downtown area, 88-year-old Enid Glabman worries it will only bring more traffic to the busy streets.

“We were hoping they would fix up the stores, and now they are building high-rise towers,” said Glabman, president of the Bayswater Civic Association.

She described the sign as a “landmark,” and said she would like to see it stay.

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“This is a beach town,” Glabman said. “This isn’t going to look like Far Rockaway anymore. It will look like Manhattan.”