Downtown Far Rockaway is getting a $139 million makeover to improve the Queens neighborhood’s streets and infrastructure.
City officials broke ground on the first of the two-phase project Friday to reimagine a 25-block stretch of the recently rezoned area. Those streets are being overhauled with new pedestrian space, landscaping and green infrastructure, and improvements to stormwater drainage to alleviate chronic flooding. The project was designed in-house by the Department of Design and Construction (DDC)—with help from W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of Brooklyn—and is being expedited to get the sorely need improvements completed as quickly as possible, according to Lorraine Grillo, the commissioner of DDC.
“A project of this scale would normally take seven years to complete, but we’re planning to finish it in three years,” Grillo said in a statement. “This very large project is going to have a transformational effect on Far Rockaway, bringing better streets and better infrastructure to a community that could really benefit from this type of investment.”
The three-year effort will center around the local business district and transit hub at Mott and Central avenues, where a new library is already under construction, and was informed by Far Rockaway’s 2017 rezoning that is set to bring a surge of below-market-rate apartments to the community and pour millions into improving Far Rockaway’s infrastructure, parks, community facilities, support for small-businesses, and more. Construction is set to align closely with several residential developments that are under construction or are planned for the coming years, according to the NYC Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
In some cases, streets will be completely rebuilt to create a greater flow of traffic and enhance pedestrian safety. Some 7,000 feet of new curbs will be installed along with more than 83,000 square feet of new concrete sidewalks; green infrastructure, such as rain gardens, will help the area with natural absorption of stormwater and work to reduce the flow into nearby wetlands and from Jamaica Bay; and more than two miles of storm drain sewers will be installed, says NYCEDC.
A new pedestrian plaza will also be created, officials say, spanning from Beach 21st to Beach 22nd streets, adjacent to the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue subway station. The 15,000-square foot plaza will include a stage for events, seating, trees and other greenery, and a public restroom.
Workers will carry out the first phase of work over the next 21 months, beginning with installing new storm sewers near Horton Avenue, catch basins to divert storm runoff, 39 new fire hydrants, and replace 11,000 feet of sanitary sewer pipes, according to NYCEDC. The second phase will kick off immediately after the first leg of the project and complete the remaining upgrades over 13 months.
The city has chipped in $126.7 million toward the undertaking with another $6.7 million from private utility companies who are contributing in order to upgrade or relocate their equipment in the area, and $5.4 million from federal HUD and highway funds. Local City Council member Donovan Richards also kicked in just shy of $500,000 and hailed the “long overdue” investment as crucial to the area’s health and growth.
“This historic $139 million investment in Downtown Far Rockaway’s infrastructure is a critical component for the future success of our community,” Richards said in a statement. “[This project] will ensure a more pedestrian friendly Far Rockaway that can better manage future storms while also beautifying the commercial corridors and the transportation hub of the peninsula.”