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CB 7 delays vote on plan from city for Corp. Park

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For the sixth time in two months, the city made a presentation to Community Board 7 members Monday night on moving five Willets Point businesses to the College Point Corporate Park. And for the sixth time, the city was rebuked by the board over something that is not even included in its plan but the community said should be.

“I was going to table this from the beginning,” CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty said after a four−hour long meeting Monday night at Union Plaza Care Center in Flushing, “because I knew from the moment they opened their mouths itwas no good.”

The city Economic Development Corp. floated its plan to relocate five Willets Point businesses — Sambucci Bros. Auto Salvage, Flushing Towing, T. Mina Building Supply Co., Met Metals and Feinstein Ironworks — to the more than 500−acre corporate park and move asphalt plant Cofire Paving Corp. to a new location.

After a heated back−and−forth discussion on the proposal, Kelty delayed a full−board vote until later this month, citing a major gap between the board and the city.

But though only minor issues appeared to remain between CB 7 and the city over the planned moves, the city hit a stone wall when EDC Vice President Tom McKnight said the city could not commit to setting aside the 25−acre Flushing Airport site — one of the largest undeveloped properties owned by the city — for parks and recreation uses. McKnight said the city has to conduct an analysis of the site to determine what, if anything, could be built on the area.

“Our most basic concern is given the conditions on the site, nothing may be feasible,” he said. “If we find during this process that soft recreation is viable, it will be part of that proposal.”

Although it once was one of the busiest airports in the city, Flushing Airport has remained vacant since it was shut down in 1984.

Multiple attempts have been made to develop the site since then, including a $175 million plan for a trade port pushed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2004, but none have come into fruition, in part because the site is predominantly made up of natural wetlands, which present significant construction challenges.

McKnight said it is for this reason that proper analysis, which could be finished by the end of this year, must be completed first. “That is totally unacceptable, Tom,” CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian told McKnight. “We need some relief. We can’t keep going back to studies, task forces and meetings. We’ve done all that. This isn’t about what we can possibly do, it’s about what we don’t want.”

Apelian and several board members lambasted McKnight and the EDC, contending that the analysis would ultimately turn into a proposal for a large commercial development.

“Can you tell us that what you’ll be building there won’t be worse than soft recreation?” board member Robert LoPinto asked.

“I can’t,” McKnight responded flatly.

Shortly thereafter, Kelty adjourned the meeting and said the board would reconvene on the matter April 27 at 7 p.m. The board is required to issue a recommendation on the proposal by April 30.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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