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KeySpan to sell Elmhurst tank site to city for $1

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The news came as a much welcome holiday gift to Queens officials and residents, who had tried to raise $12 million to purchase the land but were $9 million short with the Dec. 31 sale deadline fast approaching.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made the $1 proposal to KeySpan last week after the company announced in November it would accept offers from the city ranging from $1 and $12 million to purchase the site.

KeySpan Chief Executive Officer Robert B. Catell said the sale was made with the understanding that the city would turn the parcel, located between 57th Avenue, Grand Avenue and 80th Street into a public park.

KeySpan spokesman Ed Yutkowitz said the deal was now awaiting approval from the Public Service Commission.

"We have to dot all the i's and cross all the t's before it is finalized," he said.

Yutkowitz said it was "too early in the process" to discuss whether KeySpan would benefit from the deal by gaining tax credits or other preferential treatment. He would not disclose any details of the deal.

"I'm overjoyed," said Bob Holden, president of Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village, which protested KeySpan's plan to sell the property to hardware store giant Home Depot for $12 million and urged legislators to acquire the land for a public park. "It's a home run for the community."

After months of wrangling with KeySpan, state and city officials were elated last week by the agreement.

"This represents the true essence of democracy," said City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (R-Middle Village). "The people taking the power into their own hands to decide the fate of their community. This serves as a great sign that the voices of New Yorkers are still heard throughout every level of government and even in the halls of America's most powerful corporations."

Gallagher said he and City Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D--Forest Hills) were discussing the possibility of using the $3 million raised before the deal was struck toward designing the new park.

"The money's still there so we might as well put it toward design," Gallagher said. "This is a great opportunity to play a role in something that's going to leave a legacy in that area."

U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) praised the efforts of those who pushed to create a park at the KeySpan site.

"I want to thank Bob Holden, the Juniper Park Civic Association and Tony Nunziato (Maspeth Town Hall)," Crowley said. "Without their tireless efforts on behalf of this community the park would still be a dream."

Bloomberg got a pat on the back from those involved in the charge to reclaim the old industrial lot and transform it into a park.

"The mayor deserves our sincere appreciation and a great deal of credit for helping rescue a grateful community," said state Sen. Serph Maltese (R-Glendale).

"This mayor did something for us and we're going to be forever grateful," Holden said.

Reach reporter Tom Nicholson by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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