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Boro board OK’s sale of land for JFK cargo

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The City Council is set to vote on...

By Betsy Scheinbart

The Queens Borough Board Tuesday unanimously approved the sale of 25.4 acres of Springfield Gardens parkland adjacent to Rockaway Boulevard to be used as an air cargo facility for John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The City Council is set to vote on the sale Feb. 27. If approved, the land sale should be completed by March 10, said Steven Jacobs, a New York Economic Development Corporation project manager.

The land was appraised at $4.5 million three years ago, but will be appraised again before the sale is finalized, Jacobs said.

If approved by the City Council, the air cargo plan will provide for 527,000 feet of storage space and the Economic Development Corporation will also set aside 100 acres of Brookville Park for protection and possible recreational use, Jacobs said.

City Councilman Archie Spigner (D-St. Albans) expressed his concerns with the proposal before the vote, citing the Eastern Queens Alliance, a group of five civic organizations that have adamantly opposed the land sale.

“They are very concerned about various issues,” Spigner said, “including traffic, contamination, pollution, crime and a whole menu of concerns you get when you propose something to the community.”

While the land in question does not fall into Spigner’s district, the Rosedale Civic Association does, and its chairman, James English, is heavily involved with the alliance.

Spigner eventually voted in favor of the land sale, but said he sincerely hoped community concerns would be taken into consideration.

Community Board 13, which covers the Brookville Park land in question, voted against the proposal in October. But after the project was unanimously approved by the City Council Zoning and Land Use subcommittees, Board 13 members agreed to work out a compromise.

CB 13 Chairwoman Susan Noreika said a task force made up of Southeast Queens community members will meet shortly to monitor the project.

City Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton), whose district surrounds JFK, said she has helped serve as a mediator between the EDC, the City Council, and the Southeast Queens Community.

“I am supporting it,” Watkins said of the air cargo proposal, “but there is community opposition from some factions.”

Watkins said she has been meeting with lawyers, lobbyists, and other legislators to make sure the concerns of the community are met, but she still believes the storage space is needed for the airport.

“This is not really going to encroach on the residential areas and the so-called ‘wetlands’ are not exactly what we thought they were,” Watkins said.

Jacobs said the location was chosen to divert truck traffic from residential area. Instead, most traffic will travel along Rockaway Boulevard, which runs along side the airport.

“Those who live near an airport suffer some discomforts,” said Watkins, who lives in neighboring Laurelton, “but Kennedy Airport has got to be a world-class airport. We can’t be the Empire State and not have a working airport.”

Reach reporter Betsy Scheinbart by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 138.

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