The Beach 21st Street Plaza hosted a fashion show, a live DJ set, a bouncy house, and even a circus this past Saturday, August 12.
This was all part of the fifth annual Business Fair hosted by the Rockaway East Merchant’s Association 4 United Synergy (REMA4US). The fair is put on to support Far Rockaway’s small businesses and its commercial revitalization following the lingering impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Sandy, said REMA4US Executive Director Leonor Reina.
This year, the organization was also promoting a new flea market held at the plaza every Thursday, Friday and Saturday this summer, managed in partnership with the Department of Transportation. Reina encourages local businesses interested in one of the twelve concession spots at the market to contact REMA4US as soon as possible.
“Today’s event has been magnificent,” said Shawanda Rivera of Travel Jewels 24/7, who was selling jewelry while also promoting her cleaning and event promotion businesses. “The networking has been marvelous as well.”
The white tents of merchants like Rivera were accompanied by those of local community organizations, like the Rockaway Development and Revitalization Corporation.
Doug Wilcox, Program Associate at the RDRC, said that the organization was at the fair to promote its services, particularly its new career training and certification programs, to the community.
“When you go to a lot of meetings you’ll hear the community say that there’s nothing out here, which is actually the opposite—there’s a lot out here,” he said. “These types of events are important so the community can see that there are organizations that are really there to support them.”
In a speech to the crowd, State Senator James Sanders Jr. celebrated the development Far Rockaway has experienced in recent years, pointing to the high-rise condominiums surrounding the plaza as prime examples of this.
“Years ago, this little area may not have been the place that you wanted to be at. It might have been a little dangerous of a spot. Not anymore,” he said.
“I see a lot of change in the Rockaways,” he added. “This change is only good if we participate in it.”
REMA4US was founded in 2019 by Far Rockaway property and business owners who shared a goal of starting a Business Improvement District (BID) project in the downtown district through the NYC Department of Small Business Services.
The BID would help grow the commercial district and provide jobs that would increase quality of life for Rockaway residents, Reina said. It would also fortify services such as public safety and sanitation, and help beautify the downtown district. REMA4US’s BID Steering Committee is currently in the outreach phase of their proposal, Reina said.
The business fair, she said, demonstrates that “REMA has the capacity and the ability to handle a BID.”
Sanders said that the fair demonstrates not only the growth Far Rockaway has enjoyed so far, but its potential for even greater growth, which he believes can be enjoyed by visitors, newcomers, and locals alike.
“Part of the reason we need to do events like this is that we need to show folks that Rockaway East is vibrant, is caring, is exciting, is colorful—and safe,” Sanders told The Wave. “So we need to all come together to show how beautiful we can be, and support the local merchants.”