Far Rockaway zoning plan has some fearing they’ll be left out of business boom

The shopping center in the proposed Far Rockaway urban renewal area has had vacancies for years.
The shopping center in the proposed Far Rockaway urban renewal area has had vacancies for years. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Some local merchants say they need more guidance on how to be part of a business boom the city seeks to spur in downtown Far Rockaway.

Under the city’s plan, larger residential buildings with retail spaces on the ground floors would rise where, today, a half-vacant shopping center and buildings with small businesses sit. To ensure that they can make it happen, the proposal includes a 13-acre urban renewal area, which allows the government to seize property and compensate occupants through a highly regulated process.

But if the City Council approves the plan, existing business owners said they are not sure where they will land amid the anticipated construction spree.

Lookran Jagdeo has run Far Rockaway Auto Glass Inc. in the targeted area for 21 years. Even if he is offered some sort of compensation to pack up, Jagdeo said he doubts he could find another nearby business location.

“We would like to discuss and see what’s going on,” said Jagdeo, who is in the middle of a 20-year lease. “Where will we move? … There’s nowhere here to rent — nowhere.”

Artie’s Collision owner Kevin Gilligan said he received mailings describing the plan, but has not seen more details.

“It’s only going to put businesses that survive on a day-to-day basis with foot traffic out of business,” Gilligan said, noting that several other redevelopment proposals have failed in downtown Far Rockaway. “I doubt it’s going to happen in my lifetime.”

The area’s city councilman, Donovan Richards, and the city’s Economic Development Corporation both sent staffers door-to-door to inform businesses about the proposal.

Richards said some merchants may have written off this plan because similar attempts have sputtered over the years.

He said the city is not eager to seize property classified for urban renewal, but said it may prove prudent, if the private market does not develop as planned.

Under the city’s plan, 16 businesses would likely be relocated from the urban renewal area, at least temporarily. Another dozen stores may be displaced if the real estate market proceeds as planned, city paperwork shows.

However, some shops in the urban renewal area have already struck deals to remain in the community long-term, Richards said. And the city’s Economic Development Corporation said it would help any merchant seeking advice.

Over time, the city believes its plan will build up the area’s business corridors by bringing long-needed investment as well as more residents and potential customers to the area.

David Martir, the manager of The Thriftway Drugs, was confident his store would continue operating in the community, even though it sits in the middle of the proposed urban renewal area.

“If they create jobs and open up more stores, it would be great,” he said. “This could be the time.”

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