Renewing Arverne

The past, present, and uncertain future of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area, an important but vulnerable public asset.

The Arverne Urban Renewal Area (AURA) is a 308-acre parcel of land on the Rockaway peninsula in Queens, which, until recently, has remained largely undeveloped since it was cleared by the City of its residents and beach bungalows in 1969. Before Superstorm Sandy brought the Rockaways into the forefront of New Yorkers’ consciousness—both as a focal point for media coverage of recovery efforts and as a key reference point in debates about rebuilding versus retreating from the flood zone—notions about how best to develop this singular stretch of waterfront neighborhoods have been developed and contested by many.

In 2001, The Architectural League presented an exhibition entitled Arverne: Housing on the Edge, which featured four proposals for a large section of the AURA. The proposals—by teams from CASE, City College, Columbia University, and Yale University—were the result of an independent design investigation organized by the League to inform the Request for Proposals issued by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development for the same site in December of 2000.

To revisit and build upon this work, today we publish a feature in three parts to consider the past, present, and future of this important but vulnerable public asset. Part one provides a brief history of the site, looking back at material compiled for the 2001 League exhibition publication. In part two of the feature, journalist Emily Nathan looks at the development that has taken place in Arverne since 2001. In part three, Jonathan Tarleton and Gabriel Silberblatt consider the site’s uncertain future in light of a recent design competition for Arverne East, the last remaining undeveloped portion of the urban renewal area.