Bloomberg Announces Restoration Of Rockaway Courthouse
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and the New York City Economic Development Corporation has announced the selection of a developer for the long abandoned Rockaway Courthouse, a 24,000-square-foot building that has sat vacant for over 30 years. Located at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive, the former courthouse was built in 1932, but abandoned in the mid-1970s. For over a decade, the City has been working with local stakeholders and developers to rehabilitate this historic building and restore it to an active use serving the local community. Today, the Economic Development Corporation announced the selection of the Harmony Group to renovate the building and establish a new medical center in the space featuring a multi-specialty ambulatory surgical center, which will provide new medical services for a community that recently saw the closure of a major hospital, Peninsula Hospital Center. Harmony will rehabilitate the entire building, which will house medical tenants providing medical and outpatient surgical services in specialties including ophthalmology, urology, obstetrics, gynecology, and orthopedics once construction is complete. The project is estimated to bring 64 construction and 45 permanent jobs to the Rockaways. Photos of the Rockaway Courthouse are available at www.flickr.com/nycmayorsoffice.
“For over 30 years, the Rockaway Courthouse has sat vacant, a profound waste of this beautiful building,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “But today we have selected a developer who will not only renovate the space and return it to its former glory, but also turn it into a medical center. With the recent closure of a major nearby private hospital, this will help improve access to important medical care.”
“Today’s announcement represents the culmination of the City’s efforts to restore this historic building in the heart of the Rockaways,” said NYCEDC President Seth W. Pinsky. “This project will not only provide the community with a desperately needed medical center through the rehabilitation of a long-neglected structure, but it will also provide a critical economic boost for a community hit hard by Hurricane Sandy.”
“This is just what the doctor ordered,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “This building has been neglected and underutilized for far too long. At last it will provide a service to the community and be restored to its original beauty.”
“The Harmony Group is excited to be the developer of the Rockaway Courthouse,” said Uri Kaufman, President of the Harmony Group. “Once restored, this important landmark will once again serve the community by creating dozens of well-paying jobs, and by providing quality, affordable healthcare."
“Hurricane Sandy underscored the importance of having storm-secured, flood-protected, state-of-the-art medical facilities readily accessible to Rockaway neighborhoods and communities,” stated Rep. Gregory W. Meeks (NY-5). “Peninsula residents will regard the restoration of the Rockaway Courthouse as a new medical center as an integral component of our the recovery and forward progress of the Rockaways. Every phase of restoration will create jobs, reclaim history, instill pride, foster confidence, and reward the resiliency of tens of thousands of Peninsula residents who are building their homes, businesses, neighborhoods, and lives.”
“The long-awaited development of the Rockaway Courthouse is finally on the horizon,” said Queens Borough President Helen Marshall. “This strategically-located building, located near the entrance to the peninsula, was a neglected gem for decades that will now be polished for future use as a much-needed medical facility in an underserved community. With only one hospital on the peninsula, this resource is much-needed and I am grateful to the Bloomberg Administration and the Harmony Group for taking on the challenges of restoring this building to a use that Rockaway residents sorely need.”
“Although it was once a majestic presence in the community, the abandoned Rockaway courthouse has been an eyesore for over 30 years,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. “I have met with Uri Kaufman and the Harmony group on numerous occasions and I am confident that they are the perfect partner to help Rockaway restore an old treasure and provide a vital service in our community.”
The Greco-Roman style building functioned as a courthouse until 1962. The three story building sits two blocks from the Cross Bay Bridge, making it easily accessible to communities north of Jamaica Bay and the rest of New York City. Due to the building’s prolonged vacancy, its historical interior finishes have endured decades of exposure to the elements. Two-story courtrooms are marred by holes in the ceiling and deteriorating cornices. Painted designs have faded, decorative plaster moldings have crumbled, and moisture has infiltrated the building’s stone walls. The building’s original terrazzo flooring has been replaced by plants and soil. Plumbing and drainage systems must be completely replaced. Despite the building’s overall deterioration, its exterior façade has remained largely intact, and areas in need of repair are localized.
Harmony was selected to restore the site based on its response to a Request for Expressions of Interest issued by NYCEDC in January 2012. The company has a long history of rehabilitating and redeveloping historic properties in New York State. Harmony is committed to making a significant investment in the property by undertaking the gut restoration needed to transform it into a state-of-the-art medical center. The opening of the medical center will be the culmination of a massive restoration project that will restore the building to its former glory. The renovation will maintain the building’s distinctive marble and limestone exterior, and the total project is expected to cost more than $10 million.
The new medical center will be occupied by Rockaway ASC Development LLC, a local consortium of ten physicians, who will have offices in the building and access to operating rooms and pre- and post-op recovery facilities to provide surgical services on-site. Once construction is complete, the former courthouse building will serve as a medical hub in the Rockaways to provide comprehensive healthcare services for the local patient population.
Today’s announcement builds off of a continued City effort to provide assistance to the Rockaways, devastated by Hurricane Sandy. In February, the New York City Industrial Development Agency (NYCIDA) approved assistance through its Food Retail Expansion to Support Health (FRESH) Program for repairs to a supermarket in the Rockaways that suffered significant damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy. In January, NYCIDA also approved assistance to the Madelaine Chocolate Company, the largest employer in the Rockaways, after the tidal surge severely damaged their facilities, including the majority of manufacturing equipment and the company’s inventory. NYCIDA also established the HESTEP program in November 2012 to provide emergency assistance to impacted businesses by providing sales tax exemptions of up to $100,000 for purchases related to replacement of equipment or reconstruction of facilities impacted by the storm.