Benjamin-Beechwood to build $400 million project in the Rockaways



With a shot in the arm from Mayor Ginliani, Arverne By the Sea, a major new residential project in the Rockaways, was launched last month at City Hall in New York. The developers picked, the Benjamin Development Company of Garden City and the Beechwood Organization of Jericho, have formed a joint venture to develop the 100 acre site. The project follows decades of failed attempts to provide a mixed-use development for the Queens site.

The latest plan is expected to cost $400 million-plus and take at least four years to build and sell out. The Benjamin/Beechwood LLC partnership plans to build about 2,300 residential units in a mix of one and two-family homes with some mid-rise apartment buildings as well as up to 250,000 square feet of commerical/retail space, an approximately 30,000 square foot community recreation center and a charter school for up to 800 K-8 students.

The project received the approval of the New York City Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the enthusiastic support of Queens Borough President Claire Shulman. The plan by the Benjamin/Beechwood was the latest of several submitted over many years, according to Ms. Shulman. “This has been a long time in coming and we had some false starts, but we now have a very good proposal that we believe will be a shot in the arm to the Rockaways,” she said.

As the successful respondent to Requests for Proposals, the Benjamin Beechwood plan creates a series of new walkable neighborhoods comprising a community that draws on a coastal setting looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. The neighborhoods are each defined by their distinct housing types and interwoven by a network of public space and amenities. The sense of community is realized by employing traditions of the past as well as forward-looking environmental and design innovations of the present.

Mayor Ginliani held sway at the City Hall ceremony which included the partners of Beechwood, Mike Dubb and Les Lerner; Peter Florey, a vice president of Benjamin and architect Peter Cavaluzzi of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn, a New York architectural firm which did the preliminary designs. Also attending the ceremony in addition to Ms. Shulman were Jerilyn Perine, commissioner of HPD, Helen Marshall, Queens Borough President-elect and several builder executives affrliated with Benjamin Beechwood.

“This expansive development will foster a wide range of housing and economic development opportunities in the Rockaway peninsula community,” Ginliani said. “Moving forward with this ambitious initiative, especially in the light of recent tragic events in Belle Harbor, sends a strong signal that this administration remains committed to bringing important new projects to Queens and the Rockaways.” The joint venture between Benjamin and Beechwood represents a formidable partnership. Benjamin Development was founded more than 30 years ago by Alvin Benjamin by building luxury apartment complexes on Long island. Since then, Benjamin has expanded into New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida and currently has in development about 1,500 residential units with projected costs in excess of $350 million in Nassau, Suffolk, New York and Florida.

Beechwood, on the other hand, was founded about 20 years ago by Leslie Lerner and Michael Dubb and has built 3,200 homes with an aggregate value of over $600 million. In one of the interviews following the City Hall ceremony, Michael Dubb explained how the partnership evolved. ~ “We were at a closing on a project in Dix Hills when Al Benjamin took me aside asked me if I’d be interested in a joint venture,” Dubb said. “We said let’s look at it and when we put it together it looked like it was a good fit.”

Although many details are still being worked out, the price structures for units are as follows:
• Two family units @ $300,000-$350,000 • Condo units @ $140,000 for 1 br • Condo units @ $ 180,000 for 2 br • Oceanfront facing house @ $400,000

The site being developed is bounded by Beach 62nd Street on the east, Beach 74th Street on the west, the Rockaway Freeway on the north and the boardwalk and the ocean on the south. In interviews with Les Lerner and Peter Florey of the partnership, it was learned that the question of which firms will participate as subcontractors was up in the am “We’ll be looking at local, regional and maybe even national contractors,” Lerner said. “If we sell out in two years we might be able to build out in four years.”