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Business complex planned for Flushing Airport site

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The city selected a Korean developer to build a complex for 180 small businesses with up to 1,000 employees on part of the abandoned Flushing Airport, the mayor announced at a news conference Tuesday.

Most of the businesses will be run by Koreans.

The plan, which now faces the community and borough board approval process, has already been criticized for not including promised recreation space.

“Naturally if you look at it from the city’s point of view, it’s quite a good economic development for them,” College Point Board of Trade President Fred Mazzarello said. “But also I spoke to a couple of developers after (the press conference) about the fact that we were looking for some family recreation.”

With the industrial sounds of the Crystal Windows and Doors factory in the background, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled the plan inside the company’s offices in his second visit to College Point involving development in the past three months.

“It’s symptomatic of what you see in the five boroughs. Jobs are coming to the city,” Bloomberg said. “I can’t think of a better place to do it than Queens, the city’s most international borough.”

The Flushing Airport site was split last year into wetlands and a portion that was earmarked for industry or soft recreation, not retail space. Wetlands in the area prevented the city from developing extensively the former airport, which closed in 1984.

Over the course of discussions, a blimp port and golf range were both mentioned but rejected for the site, which abuts the College Point Industrial Park.

The mayor introduced Pil Jae Im, a managing member of College Point Wholesale Distribution Development LLC, the company that purchased the airport property for an undisclosed price.

The organization plans to build several buildings, each of which would include 25 to 75 importing and wholesale businesses, on a 26-acre site. Another 36 acres of the airport site will be preserved as wetlands. None of the land will be used for recreation facilities.

“That’s going to be a serious conversation with them,” Community Board 7 Chairman Gene Kelty, who did not attend the press conference, said. “We’ll see what happens when it comes before the committee.”

Mazzarello said the Corporate Park plans include a nature walk, but he was hoping for more family-oriented facilities.

“To me, that’s not recreation,” he said.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Whitestone), who was not at the news conference, said he was appalled to learn of the project in light of the existing traffic problems and lack of recreation in the area.

“I had met with a number of developers,” he said. “This one was by far the worst. This is insanity.”

Plans for the potential construction of the small business consortium also include an $8 million investment on the city’s behalf in order to finish the reconstruction of Linden Place.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said he and Borough President Helen Marshall would work to secure $1.2 million to build a direct route from the Linden Place exit off the Whitestone Expressway directly to the congested 20th Avenue.

“This is an example of how the Bloomberg administration is working to create economic opportunity and make sure the infrastructure is in place,” Liu said. “This is a group of people looking to build something world class. They have been concerned about creating jobs, economic opportunities for all people.”

Im, a Korean businessman, thanked the city for awarding him the bid to develop the site. The complex will be home to predominantly Korean companies that import goods such as toys, jewelry, hats and electronics from countries in Asia, Central and South America, Europe and the Caribbean.

“We look forward to working for the city and surrounding community to create a place that our business can grow and thrive,” Im said. “This is a proud moment for us and the Korean community.”

Bloomberg said the business complex would bring about 600 employees currently working in Manhattan and New Jersey to Queens. In time, as many as 420 new jobs could be created.

“In the end, companies don’t need tax incentives,” Bloomberg said. “They will succeed if they can attract the work force to sustain them.”

But Flushing activist Paul Graziano said the land will not sustain construction of this sort.

“That is a total betrayal of everything the EDC and city planning promised the community,” he said. Graziano worked on a zoning study for Avella in which he recommended the land remain open space.

Avella said he believes the neighborhoods he represents will be outraged at this proposal.

“The community will rise up the way it has never risen up before,” he warned.

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

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