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City Planning Commission OKs JFK cargo warehouse

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Commission spokeswoman Jennifer Chait said that while three of the 13 members were absent, all those present approved the plan. She said the issue will next go before the City Council, where its ultimate fate will be decided.

Proponents of the warehouse said it will bring some 1,000 new jobs to Queens, but community activists have said the project would damage wetlands in the area and increase already heavy traffic.

"The community is still extremely concerned about this," said Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of the land-use committee of Community Board 13. "They are worried about the environmental issues and the additional truck traffic."

Hellenbrecht said the City Council would likely vote on the issue sometime in March.

The air cargo industry is vital to the economy of Queens, but according to a 1999 survey, in recent years JFK has had trouble competing with other airports because of antiquated and inadequate cargo facilities.

Under the proposal, four warehouses with 552,025 square feet of storage space and 175,000 square feet of office space would be constructed just west of the intersection of Rockaway Boulevard and Brookville Boulevard, said Dan Andrews, a spokesman for Borough President Claire Shulman

The center would be built by Chicago-based International Airport Centers. The New York City Economic Development Corporation is strongly backing the project.

Shulman had approved of the plan last fall but urged that strong measures be taken to prevent trucks from driving along Brookville Boulevard, which residents refer to as "Snake Road" because it winds through wetlands for more than a mile.

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.

Several local civic groups, including the Rosedale Civic Association, have opposed the project because they say it would increase the truck traffic to Springfield Gardens and Rosedale, communities they say is already overburdened with traffic.

Fred Kress, president of the Rosedale Civic Association, said that draining any wetlands in the area could lead to increased flooding in Rosedale.

"The business that is going to be brought to the airport is a good thing," said Celeste Morris, state Sen. Malcolm Smith's (D-St. Albans) chief of staff. "Still, that has to be done with the community in mind."

Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton), whose district covers the site, said she has tried to set up a meeting at which community leaders could voice their concerns to members of the City Council Land Use Committee.

She said the heads of several civic groups, including the Spring-Gar Civic Association and the Rosedale-Springfield Community Action Group, canceled an initial meeting scheduled for Dec. 28, and then did not show up for a meeting on Jan. 4.

Watkins said the fate of the project rests in the hands of the land use committee, and it is only fair that the community leaders meet with the committee, but they have to be responsible.

"They may have a couple of valid concerns," said Watkins. "I don't know if they would be big enough to halt the project."

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