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Willets Pt. asphalt plant building delayed by city

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The project, which received site approval from Community Board 7 in November, has been criticized for adding industry to the Iron Triangle of Flushing, an area now filled with auto repair shops which is earmarked for revitalization in the city's economic development plans.

At a news conference designed to further inform the public about the proposed plant, elected officials questioned the DOT about the ramifications of adding an asphalt plant to an area that is home to two other asphalt production centers, Tully Environmental and Grace Industries.

"This plan will have some advantages and some drawbacks as well," Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said.

State Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) called Willets Point a "vital area" and said she wants to ensure nothing impedes the development of that section.

"This is one of the few areas where we do have vacant land and we have to be careful," she said.

DOT presenters said the asphalt plant would be situated on Harper Street near the Whitestone Expressway across the Flushing River from the Grace Industries plant in an area that is zoned for industrial use.

"The project itself is consistent with the city waterways revitalization plan," said Joseph Lucca, the project presenter. "The site is ideal for the production of asphalt because it has waterfront access."

If the plan is approved, the DOT would extend the promenade from the World's Fair Marina to the edge of the asphalt plant, with promises to buffer the industrial site with shrubbery and trees.

The DOT already owns the property where the plant will be built at 32-11 Harper St., and uses it as a vehicle repair and maintenance site. The plan to build an asphalt plant there would essentially allow the DOT to stop buying from the Grace Industries plant and start making its own asphalt with recycled roadway materials.

Planners also said the new plant would be 99.9 percent efficient in removing dust and it would employ modern fan technology that would draw back fumes.

"I believe that the offset is such that we will not be adding emissions into the air," DOT Deputy Commissioner Joseph Cannisi said. He said that by making its own asphalt in an environmentally-friendly manner, the city would cut back on the amount of business it does with the older plants in the area, which are held to outdated emissions standards.

At the November CB 7 site approval hearing, Jock Como, a spokesman for Whitestone-based Grace Industries, said his company's asphalt plant is not subject to antiquated emissions standards and that it does meet state requirements for operation.

"The companies have claimed this will have a dramatic impact on their businesses and their ability to stay in business," Liu said.

DOT officials said if the plant is built, six jobs could be created.

Liu said up to 200 jobs could be lost if those businesses are adversely affected by the creation of a DOT plant.

Planners said they would spend the next year assessing this business impact.

"Other vendors feel they will be negatively affected economically," Cannisi said. "We're sensitive to that."

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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