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Last week the City Planning Commission held a hearing about the proposal, which proponents say could bring 1,000 new jobs to Queens. Joe Goldbloom, the chief of staff to City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans) said this week the planning commission is expected to make a recommendation to a City Council subcommittee within days as to whether or not to go forward with the project.
"The councilman attended the hearing and is aware of the issue," said Goldbloom.
The proposal is to build four warehouses with a total of 352,025 square feet of storage space and 175,000 square feet of office space, said Dan Andrews, spokesman for Borough President Claire Shulman. The plan also calls for the revamping of a strip between 182nd Street and Brookville Boulevard, which residents refer to as "Snake Road" because it winds through wetlands, into a new thoroughfare called International Airport Center Boulevard.
The air cargo industry is vital to the economy of Queens, but a recent survey found that JFK was having trouble competing with other airports because of inadequate and antiquated cargo facilities.
Spigner, whose council district neighbors the undeveloped parkland between the Springfield Gardens and Rosedale communities where the warehouses would be built, did not say whether or not he supported the project.
City Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton) and state Assemblywoman Pauline Rhodd-Cummings (D-Rockaway) did not return repeated phone calls requesting comment. Both represent the area covering Idlewild Park, where the project would be built.
Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-St. Albans), whose district neighbors that of Rhodd-Cummings, said he thinks the project is a good idea but he has some reservations.
"Will it increase flooding? - that is a big question," Scarborough said.
Rosedale residents worry that if the wetlands are disturbed, it would upset a delicate balance in the low-lying community, and create extra flooding.
"This is not in my district, but it affects my district," Scarborough said.
He said the warehouse center may lead to increased commercial traffic along Rockaway Boulevard in Rhodd-Cummings' district, and then traffic would spill over to Brookville Boulevard in his district.
Two weeks ago more than 100 residents met with city officials at a church in Springfield Gardens and expressed fears the project would bring traffic and environmental woes to Rosedale and Springfield Gardens.
But Goldbloom said community opposition was more subdued at the city Planning Commission hearing last week.
Richard Hellenbrecht, the chairman of the Land Use Committee of Community Board 13, said the issue would go before the City Council in February and a final decision would most likely be made in March.
In September Community Board 13 voted unanimously against rezoning Idlewild Park for manufacturing use because it said the city did not provide an environmental impact statement. Last month Shulman recommended that the project should go forward, provided that the city puts up bollards, or barriers, which would prevent trucks from traveling along Brookville Boulevard.
But Hellenbrecht said bollards have been used with mixed success in the past, and often create difficult and dangerous situations for cars driving along the winding and narrow roadway.
"I don't know any community person that is for this," said Barbara Brown, the president of the Springfield-Rosedale Community Action Group. "Nothing in this proposal speaks to the needs of the community."
Even the possibility of new jobs did not impress Brown.
"Look at the demographics of the neighborhood," she said. "Most of the people already have jobs."
©2000 Community Newspaper Group
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