If you stand in the right spot at the Ocean Bay apartment complex in Far Rockaway, you might mistake the neatly trimmed lawns and spotless walkways for those of Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan. Familiar city housing authority logos and address markers are gone, replaced by new ones with the tagline ‘Live. Life. Home.’
Workers were going the extra mile Monday morning to tidy up the grounds of the 1960s era housing project in advance of a ribbon cutting to celebrate the completion of two years of work done under a public-private partnership between NYCHA and RDC Development.
After superstorm Sandy, the city successfully applied to transition the Arverne development into the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program. Under RAD, management of the campus is handed over to a private partner, which can tap into more politically stable Section 8 funding, as well as private financing resources.
At Ocean Bay, RDC Development secured $560 million in public and private money to repair apartments and fortify the community from future storms. Residents received new floors, bathrooms and kitchens in their apartments. Workers also revamped lobbies, security systems and exteriors.
The housing project, where about 4,000 people live, now has boilers on its roof, rather than in flood-prone lower floors. RDC Development said it installed passive flood gates along with what it described as the third largest solar panel array in the state.
“With the new boilers up there, according to what they’re saying, it should be better,” said Sonia Delawrence, a resident of 30 years. “It looks good. They’ve done a marvelous job.”
New amenities such as an upgraded dog run were welcomed by Kaheem Bates and his dog Star.
“It (Sandy) was crazy, but now look. Sandy was 2012, it’s 2019 — now you’re like, ‘Wow,’” Bates said.
Under RAD, RDC Development has a 99-year contract with NYCHA, where the firm has a 50 percent stake in the building portfolio, but NYCHA maintains ownership of the land. NYCHA officials have said this arrangement ensures residents’ housing rights remain relatively unchanged.
Since 2016, day-to-day operations at Ocean Bay have fallen to Wavecrest Management Group, which is part of RDC Development.
Wavecrest Management Group also manages thousands of units across the city and has been criticized for lagging on critical repairs in the past.
But at Ocean Bay, the firm has earned good marks from Bates.
“Say if I had problems with the heating systems, they would come fix it right away,” he said. “When NYCHA was still here, it would depend on who was doing the job.”
City Councilman Donovan Richards, who represents the area and who has an aunt at Ocean Bay, said he would keep an eye on Wavecrest Management Group’s tenure in Arverne.
“We monitor. We watch,” Richards said. “I did see that report, but I’m confident.”