The hearing was the last one...
by Ayala Ben-Yehuda
Opposition to plans for a catering hall at Fort Totten brought several community leaders from northeast Queens to Manhattan Monday to speak out against the proposal before the citys Franchise and Concession Review Committee.
The hearing was the last one scheduled on the issue of the catering hall, according to a Parks Department spokesman.
Members of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance and Community Board 7, under whose jurisdiction Fort Totten lies, addressed the committee and Joanne Imohiosen, the Parks Departments assistant commissioner for revenue, about concerns ranging from parking to traffic congestion to the inclusion of community input into future uses of the former military base.
While not yet under the Parks Departments official control, Building 604 is slated to become The View, a catering hall run by Bayside restaurateur Dominick Bruccoleri, owner of Papazzios on Bell Boulevard.
Under a concessionaire agreement, the department will receive revenue from the catering hall on Totten land that is in the process of being transferred to the city from the federal government.
Bruccoleri was at the hearing but did not speak publicly, according to participants.
Its going to be horrific, said the Bay Terrace civics Warren Schreiber of the parking overflow onto residential streets that his group believes will result from a catering hall at Fort Totten.
The community is particularly concerned that the Civil War-era fort has only one entrance and exit and limited parking facilities.
The Parks Department spokesman said the expansion of a parking lot outside the fort was under discussion with Bruccoleri, and 150 valet parking spots on paved roads in Totten would preclude overflow onto residential streets.
Also raising the specter of traffic nightmares is the Bell Boulevard exit off the Cross Island Parkway, which only has one northbound lane.
Before anything can be done, there have to be improvements to the infrastructure, said Schreiber. If they do put parking in Fort Totten itself, it should be for the recreational users of the park.
City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a representative from the office of state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) and Bay Terrace activist Joyce Shepard also attended the hearing to express opposition to the catering hall plan.
Avella said he planned to ask Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe to pull Bruccoleris Request for Proposal, but a Parks spokesman would not discuss the possibility.
A catering hall is just inappropriate for that location, said Avella, who echoed the call at the hearing for additional time for public review of the plan.
We shouldnt be rushing to judgment before the traffic study and conveyance is done, Avella said.
CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman and Chairman Eugene Kelty are trying to restart a task force on Fort Totten that was active under former Borough President Claire Shulman but has not met under Helen Marshalls administration.
Bitterman said a letter would be sent to Marshall this week requesting that [she] set up a Fort Totten task force regarding the conveyance of the property to the Parks Department, discussion of the master plan on the entire site and parking for both the Fire and Parks departments, including the concession for the restaurant and the catering facility.
Schreiber also took issue with the hearings location near City Hall instead of at Fort Totten or Borough Hall. The Parks spokesman said that concession rules required that the hearing had to be held downtown.
Theyre really not interested in the communitys input, said Schreiber.
Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda at Timesledger@aol.com.
©2003 Community News Group
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