Lawmakers in Queens call for new environmental review of Rockaway development

Courtesy of Triangle Equities

It may take a while longer before shovels hit the ground for the long-dormant Arverne East mega-development in the Rockaways.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato and state Senator Joseph Addabbo are urging the city to conduct a new Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on a long stretch of beachfront land that stretches from Beach 32nd Street to Beach 56th Street.

The current EIS was conducted in the early 2000s and does not account for numerous factors including major weather events, the COVID-19 pandemic, and demographic trends that have changed over time. The two lawmakers sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Planning Director Marisa Lago saying they have a responsibility to the community to put the project on hold until a new environmental review is completed and the commercial program is re-evaluated.

“There are a lot of great aspects to this development, but the reality is there has not been a comprehensive EIS done for Arverne East since George Bush was president. A lot has changed in our community since then that needs to be considered,” Pheffer Amato said. “Major weather events, population growth, commercial and retail trends, education needs and a global pandemic are just a few of the factors that were not considered in the last EIS. A development this large needs to be done responsibly, a current EIS will better state the needs of our community and we deserve that.”

The Arverne East development is within the Arverne Urban Renewal Area, overseen by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. The plan calls for thousands of units of housing, 150,000 square feet of community retail and restaurant space, and a nature preserve over the 81 acres of city-owned land that has been vacant for decades.

Since the last EIS was conducted in 2003 there have been major hurricanes and tropical storms that gutted their district, the coronavirus pandemic that ravaged the far Rockaway community, losses of a major hospital and healthcare facility, two major NYC up-zonings including the Far Rockaway Revitalization and the Peninsula Hospital site redevelopment which will bring more than 5,000 units, and hundreds of other private developments throughout the peninsula.

“At a time when the city is looking to lay off over 20,000 city employees and cut budgets for social services, it is fiscally irresponsible to give the development team in excess of 90 million dollars in city-funded subsidies,” they wrote, adding that trends in healthcare, climate change, traffic, transportation, school population, social services, economical and population have all changed since 2003.

“Due to several major changes and events over the last 17 years,” Addabbo said. “While I normally favor job growth and development, the Rockaway Peninsula is a completely different place than it was in 2003 when the original EIS was done. We owe it to the people of Arverne to take another look at where the community stands, and what the community needs now in 2020 and beyond.”

This story first appeared on our sister publication qns.com.