The Rockaways neighborhood in Queens experienced record job growth and business sales since Superstorm Sandy, according to a report released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. The population has nearly returned to the pre-storm level, but too many homeowners are still in the process of rebuilding.
"People are returning to the Rockaways because it's a great place to live," DiNapoli said. "With record job growth, a newly rebuilt boardwalk along the Atlantic Ocean that attracts millions of visitors, and several economic developments projects in the pipeline, the Rockaways is coming back. Today's report shows how far the Rockaways have come, but it also highlights the challenges that remain."
"As a resident of Far Rockaway and as an elected official who represents most of the peninsula, I recognize the victories and challenges that our community faces particularly after Hurricane Sandy," said State Sen. James Sanders, Jr. (D-South Ozone Park)."I appreciate and applaud Comptroller DiNapoli for compiling this detailed report so that others may gain a better perspective on the remaining issues related to transportation, economic development, population growth and more. I look forward to working with the Comptroller and my colleagues in government as well as residents and local leaders to build a better, stronger and more vibrant Rockaway."
"I am further inspired by the news in State Comptroller DiNapoli's report indicating that the Rockaways are on their way back socially and economically after the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy, truly reflecting the dedication and resiliency of the people," said State Sen. Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. (D-Ozone Park). "Residents are increasingly active in communities throughout the peninsula and some businesses are growing at levels higher than before the storm, but more still needs to be done. Too many homeowners are having difficulties with the rebuilding process, and transportation to and from the peninsula can be arduous for residents. Even with these hardships, the future for the Rockaways is a bright one, and even brighter if we work together. I look forward to working with all to make sure the needs of Rockaway residents are met."
"Rockaway is experiencing a wave of new developments and improvements," said Assemblymember Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway). "After Hurricane Sandy, addressing and reinforcing our infrastructure became a priority. New housing, new boardwalk, downtown revitalization, ferry ride to the city and record number of summer visitors are giant steps in the right direction but more lies ahead with our levies and roads. I thank our State Comptroller DiNapoli for this economic snapshot because it will help our community move forward on a path of economic growth ensuring no one is left behind."
"Though we might still have some challenges, lack of transit options and unnecessary tolls, the Rockaway Peninsula is like none other in the world. I was raised here and I'm raising my family here," said Assemblymember Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Beach). "We love the vibrant diversity in our community that draws new people here. That's why this community is growing; why people who came to rebuild after Sandy are staying for the long haul. I thank Comptroller DiNapoli for his leadership and for bringing this vital information to the public."
"When Superstorm Sandy devastated the Rockaways, I vowed to do everything in my power to help those communities rebuild. Nearly six years later, the Peninsula has made a remarkable recovery," said New York City Councilmember Eric Ulrich. "For decades, the residents of Rockaway were underrepresented and lacked a voice at City Hall, but today – our future is brighter than ever before. Historic investments have been on every corner of the Peninsula, allowing this community to thrive. While there is still work to be done, our progress and resiliency is inspiring."
"The Rockaways are seeing a resurgence like never before," said New York City Councilmember Donovan Richards. "With investments in affordable housing, infrastructure and new commercial development, people are no longer coming just for the beaches, they are coming to live, work and put down roots for their families. I would like to thank State Comptroller DiNapoli for not only shining a light on the Rockaways with this report, but investing in the future of the peninsula."
"While our situation is certainly improving since Sandy, we are still facing the same challenges that have stifled economic development for decades: poor transportation, lack of good job opportunities and thousands of health related beds among other issues," said Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14. "The metrics presented in this study will be helpful in making our case for more government investment and assistance."
"The Rockaway Institute for a Sustainable Environment – RISE was honored to host State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and his announcement on the 'Economic Snapshot of the Rockaways,'" said Rockaway Waterfront Alliance Executive Director Jeanne DuPont. "We look forward to Comptroller DiNapoli's report on the current economic situation in the Rockaways and our communities' bright future."
Private sector employment declined by 11 percent between 2011 and 2013, but recovered quickly, setting a new record of 14,900 jobs in 2016, 400 more jobs than the prior record in 2011. Job growth remained strong during the first half of 2017, rising by 4.6 percent (twice the citywide rate).
Health care was the largest employer in the Rockaways, accounting for 39 percent of all private sector jobs. More than half of the jobs gained between 2013 and 2016 were concentrated in health care, restaurants and bars, and personal services (e.g., hair and nail salons).
Business sales dipped in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, but reached $149 million in 2016, the highest level ever and exceeding the pre-storm level by 35 percent. In 2016, there were 1,215 businesses in the Rockaways, 11 percent more than before Superstorm Sandy. Most businesses are small (81 percent had fewer than 10 employees; two-thirds had fewer than five employees).
The Rockaways is made up of 10 communities, each with their own economic and social identity. Overall population growth was the second-fastest among the city's 55 U.S. Census-defined neighborhoods between 2000 and 2012, rising by 20 percent (five-times faster than the citywide rate), to reach a record 128,400. While the population fell by 16 percent in the two years following Superstorm Sandy, it has nearly recovered, reaching 127,400 in 2016.
Transportation is a major issue for residents because 90 percent work outside of the Rockaways and face the longest commute among the 55 neighborhoods in the city (averaging 52 minutes). A new ferry service and select bus route were added, but subway service remains unreliable. The toll on the Cross Bay Bridge (New York City's only intra-borough toll bridge) places a unique burden on residents and businesses because it makes it more expensive for visitors to enter the Rockaways.
Another community concern is limited access to health care facilities after the Peninsula Hospital Center closed in 2012. St. John's Episcopal Hospital is now the only full-service acute care hospital in the area. Emergency room visits at St. John's increased by 40 percent between 2011 and 2015.
Other findings in DiNapoli's report include:
- More than one-fifth of the households in the Rockaways had incomes below the federal poverty level, and nearly one-third of the children lived in poverty (slightly higher than the citywide shares). The poverty rates in Far Rockaway (25 percent) and Edgemere (34 percent) were well above the citywide rate (18 percent).
- The unemployment rate fell from 14.2 percent in 2010 to 9 percent in 2016, but it was still almost twice the 2007 prerecession level and the third-highest of any neighborhood in Queens. The unemployment rate varied by neighborhood, ranging from 2.9 percent in Belle Harbor to 17.9 percent in Edgemere.
- The Rockaways had the 13th-lowest median household income among the city neighborhoods ($44,400), and the second- lowest in Queens. Household income varied by community, ranging from $30,400 in Edgemere to $138,200 in Belle Harbor.
- The City Council recently approved a plan to rezone 23 blocks to spur development in Downtown Far Rockaway. The project calls for infrastructure improvements, strengthening existing commercial corridors, land acquisition for affordable housing and expanding community services.
- Immigrants accounted for one-quarter of the population in the Rockaways in 2016. Of the 33,100 immigrants, two-thirds were from Latin America (including the Caribbean) and almost one-fifth were from Europe.
- The population under the age of 18 grew by 24 percent between 2000 and 2016, compared to a 7 percent decline citywide.
- The Rockaways ranked in the top 10 for the highest share of firefighters and police officers (fifth) and teachers (ninth) among the city's 55 neighborhoods.
- There are more than 4,000 New York City Housing Authority apartments in the Rockaways, and these properties are home to nearly 10,000 people. Even before Superstorm Sandy, many of these units were in disrepair.
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