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Projects & Proposals > Resilient Neighborhoods > Rockaway Park...

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Rockaway Park & Rockaway Beach

As part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative, the Department of City Planning is working with the coastal communities of Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach to collaboratively identify zoning and land use changes to address specific local conditions not addressed by the citywide Flood Resilience Zoning Text Amendment.

These neighborhoods were selected for study as a part of the Resilient Neighborhoods initiative not only because they were among the city’s hardest-hit neighborhoods during Hurricane Sandy, but also because of their specific challenges and opportunities.  The study area’s unique built environment requires a careful examination of zoning, land use, and infrastructure coordination to support neighborhood resiliency and vitality. 

The expected outcomes for the Rockaway Park/Rockaway Beach study are:

  • An analysis of resiliency options for the variety of building types within the area;
  • Identifying zoning recommendations to support redevelopment of key sites to strengthen commercial corridors;
  • Coordination with capital agencies to identify potential infrastructure upgrades; and
  • Identifying opportunities to promote coastal resiliency and public access on the bay and oceanfront.

Study Area
Study Area and Flood Risk (FEMA Flood Zones)
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Community Profile

What defines the neighborhood?
The Rockaway Park/Rockaway Beach study area encompasses approximately 120 blocks in southeast Queens, in the middle of the Rockaway Peninsula.  The study area is generally bounded by Jamaica Bay to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Beach 77th Street to the east, and Beach 129th Street to the west. 

The study area has approximately 26,000 residents in over 10,000 housing units.  The built environment consists primarily of lower-density residential buildings including one- and two-family homes and multi-family walkup buildings.  Together, these building types comprise over 80% of all buildings in the area, with the remainder made up of mixed commercial and residential, full commercial, and multi-family elevator buildings.  While not predominant in number, multi-family elevator buildings contain nearly 50% of all building square footage in the area.  The study area contains a considerable population in publicly-subsidized housing units, nursing homes, and other long-term care facilities.

The area also includes all or portions of four main commercial corridors – Beach 129th Street, Beach 116th Street, Rockaway Beach Boulevard, and Beach Channel Drive – most of which are served by transit, including the elevated “A” and “S” trains and their Beach 116th Street, Beach 105th Street, Beach 98th Street and Beach 90th Street stations, numerous bus lines, and a ferry service located at Beach Channel Drive and Beach 108th Street.

Flood Risk and Neighborhood Resiliency

What type of flood risk exists?
As a barrier island, the Rockaways face coastal flood risk from both the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay. As Hurricane Sandy demonstrated, the peninsula can experience significant wave forces from the Atlantic Ocean as well as inundation from the low lying bayside.  As shown in the graphic above, the extent of the 100-year flood zone within the study area expanded considerably with the new federal flood maps between FEMA’s 1983 Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) and the 2013 Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Maps (PFIRMs), FEMA's best available information on flood hazards.  Approximately 24% of the study area’s buildings were in the 100-year flood zone in the 1983 federal flood maps while 89% are now within the new maps. In addition to the expanded flood zone, the maps also have new, generally higher base flood elevations for the study area.  The new base flood elevations are generally between 10 and 15 feet (NAVD 88), which represent 2 to 11 feet above ground level.  While building to these higher flood resistant construction standards will reduce vulnerability to future floods, as well as help avoid higher flood insurance premiums, doing so can be economically and logistically challenging, especially considering the diversity of building types within the study area.

100 Year Flood Zone Map
100 Year floodzone within the study area according to FEMA’s 1983  FIRMs and areas added to the 100 year floodzone by  FEMA’s Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (December 2013).
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What are the challenges to resiliency?
The unique built environment of Rockaway Park and Rockaway Beach, including the variety of building types, poses a challenge to resilient retrofitting and reconstruction.  For example, housing types in the area range from small bungalows, to attached row houses, to units in mid-rise towers.  A common theme for the buildings in the study area, however, is that a majority of them were built before flood resistant construction standards were introduced through the Building Code and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or were built before the site was mapped within the flood zone. Buildings built at grade, with basements and/or sloped driveways, are common in the area and are especially vulnerable to flooding.  New, higher flood elevations also present logistical and economic challenges to the area’s main commercial corridors. 
Recognizing these challenges, there is an opportunity to identify adaptation strategies in order to inform home and business owners of their options for making resilient retrofits. In addition, there is an opportunity to leverage recovery resources towards the redevelopment of key sites along major corridors and transit nodes as part of a comprehensive commercial revitalization plan. 

While zoning and land use are the focal points of this study, land use planning activities must also be coordinated with infrastructure investments.  Therefore, the study will also identify practical strategies to address neighborhood infrastructure needs and constraints including coastal protection, stormwater management, waterfront public access, and transportation.

An example of the diversity of building types found in the study area at Beach 109th Street
An example of the diversity of building types found in the study area at Beach 109th Street
Woodframe building with basement on Beach 91st Street
Woodframe building with basement on Beach 91st Street
Retail on Beach 116th Street
Retail on Beach 116th Street
Seawall reconstruction underway with the ferry terminal in the background
Seawall reconstruction underway with the ferry terminal in the background

How Are We Working With Communities?

The Department of City Planning is working with local leaders in Rockaway Beach and Rockaway Park to identify changes to zoning and land use and other actions to support neighborhood vitality and help residents and businesses withstand and recover quickly from future storms and other climate events.

On October 8th, 2014 DCP convened the first Community Advisory Committee to present the goals of the study. The Committee includes representatives from Community Board 14, the Rockaway Civic Association, Rockaway Beach Civic Association, Rockaway Chamber of Commerce, Beach 116th Street Partnership, Councilmember Eric Ulrich’s office, Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder’s office, and Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr.’s office, as well as other local leaders. The presentation can be viewed here.

On December 15th, 2014 the Community Advisory Committee convened for a second time to discuss zoning issues.  Following the Department’s analysis of issues and opportunities, the Community Advisory Committee will reconvene in the fall of 2015 to discuss initial recommendations.  In summary, this study will:

  • Build-off outreach from other efforts, including SIRR and New York Rising programs;
  • Provide clear, concrete information to residents on potential strategies for increasing resiliency that are implementable;
  • Shape recommendations based on robust public outreach; and
  • Result in the implementation of regulatory changes through ULURP and plans for infrastructure improvements.
Related Projects and Initiatives In This Area

This initiative will require careful coordination with the many resiliency projects and proposals already planned or in the process of being implemented in the study area, including:

For more information about the study contact the Queens Office of the Department of City Planning at 718-520-2100 or email at

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