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Mayor accused of flip-flop on harbor tunnel

"When you get done looking at the pros and cons, the answer is we should not build this tunnel," Bloomberg said to a standing ovation at the Juniper Park Civic Association meeting March 3. "You really would destroy neighborhoods in this area and we just can't do that."Bloomberg spoke minutes after his Republican rival Tom Ognibene, the former Middle Village councilman who the Queens GOP endorsed for mayor recently, presented the civic's Man of the Year award to City Councilman Dennis Gallagher (D-Middle Village). Area residents applauded the mayor's stance on an underground link between New Jersey and Brooklyn that critics in the Community Board 5 region say would displace thousands of jobs and flood their streets with hundreds of more trucks a day. The proposal calls for a 200-foot high rail-to-truck transfer facility in the West Maspeth Yard. Bloomberg opposed the tunnel during his campaign for mayor in 2001 but supported a $22 million federal study for the project launched by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn). The state Economic Development Corporation study said the tunnel would remove one million vehicles a day off roads around Manhattan. It was projected to cost $7 billion.The mayor's opposition "is a terrible blow to Jerry Nadler's plans to destroy our quality of life," said Gallagher, who served as Ognibene's chief of staff for a decade before the former councilman left office because of term limits. "It's phenomenal. We just defeated something," said CB 5 member Tony Nunziato, one of the tunnel's most vocal critics. "It just shows that nothing in life is a done deal."But the day after Bloomberg's announcement, two likely Democratic candidates for mayor blasted him for his stance. "The rail freight tunnel is one of the ways we must confront the growing toll diesel trucks are taking on New York's health and infrastructure. Bloomberg has said as much himself on a number of occasions," said C. Virginia Fields, Manhattan's borough president. "People in Maspeth are already up to here in trucks so it is natural for them to oppose the rail freight tunnel if it promises to bring more trucks into the area. But the answer is not to make an about-face on the tunnel just to placate voters in Queens."City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D-Manhattan) agreed. "It's a shame that the mayor has decided to put politics above principle and change his position," Miller said in a statement. "Instead of doing what's right and standing by his support for this important issue, Mayor Bloomberg is letting thousands of New Yorkers continue to have their health at risk from diesel truck traffic."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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