How can downtown Far Rockaway’s transportation system handle the growth in housing and commercial development that City Hall is planning for the beachside community? To hear some local bigwigs tell it, the answer is parking, parking, and more parking. But Council Member Donovan Richards has different ideas.
The de Blasio administration has committed $91 million to street infrastructure, commercial development, and public services for downtown Far Rockaway in tandem with a rezoning in its affordable housing plan. At a hearing on the proposed rezoning last night, most people could only talk about one thing: parking.
“The success of downtown Far Rockaway is going to be the ability to attract people from surrounding communities, including Nassau County, and they’re not going to be able to do it on [public] transportation,” said Marty Ingram, co-chair of Queens Community Board 14’s transportation committee.
While the rezoning plan is not final, the draft environmental impact assessment anticipates lower parking requirements that “more closely reflect automobile ownership rates within the area,” which are low compared to the rest of the peninsula. Excessive parking minimums drive up the cost of housing.
That was a sticking point for many other attendees, some of whom pointed to existing traffic problems as justification for more parking.
“People who are going to move here are going to have cars, they need to park, and if this is going to be the beautiful shopping area that we want it and we believe it’s going to be, people are going to drive here,” CB 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska said. “The city’s dream that people are going to ride their bikes to Rockaway and shop… is just not going to happen.”
Council Member Richards, who has spearheaded the rezoning process, had a different take. He said the neighborhood has a “legitimate parking issue” but that improving transit and bike infrastructure — not building more parking — is the most promising way to address those problems.