Flushing Airport traffic will be studied

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State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) said...

By Cynthia Koons

A state senator and a city councilman are at odds over who is responsible for a welcome delay in the controversial development of the Flushing Airport site, which has sparked strong opposition in College Point.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) said April 7 the city Department of Transportation would conduct a much-needed traffic study on the congested roadways that surround the Flushing Airport site. Those streets include the Whitestone Expressway, 20th Avenue and service roads around the parcel.

But Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who held a public rally in opposition to the project, said the state senator is taking an inordinate amount of credit for a delay that may not even happen.

The study, Padavan said, will create a delay in the development of the wholesale business complex at the airport site. Depending on the results of the study, he said the mayor told him that negotiations with the Korean wholesale business developer Pil Jae Im could be dropped completely and the project shelved.

“How can you propose a commercial development with an enormous increase in trucks and vehicles when we already have a horrible situation which you have not analyzed?” Padavan asked.

He said the delay is a “direct result” of his recent meetings with the city officials and local civics. Residents are staunchly opposed to the construction of a small business complex for 180 wholesale importers and exporters.

Avella said the traffic study is not a delay but a diversionary tactic that the city is using to push through the project without residents knowing.

“We’ve seen traffic studies come and go and the city has ignored its own recommenda­tions,” Avella said. “The traffic study is meaningless.”

He also said the city was prepared to conduct traffic studies prior to Padavan’s meetings with the city officials and civics on Feb. 25 and March 11.

The development of the Flushing Airport site has been a point of contention since Mayor Michael Bloomberg stopped in the College Point Corporate Park in early February to announce the impending sale and development of the defunct airport property.

Avella, who was not invited to the mayor’s announcement, has denounced the project on grounds that it does not meet the recreational needs of the community. College Point has waited seven years for the reopening of its ballfields, which were shuttered in the late 1990s after illegally dumped debris was discovered on the site of the park. The fields are scheduled to open this weekend.

Avella was joined by state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn (D-Flushing) and a few hundred residents in protesting the business complex in March.

He said residents were so riled up that they wanted to hold weekly rallies until the project was defeated. That idea was abandoned in favor of monthly rallies, Avella said, with the next one planned for April 24.

“The bottom line is, I know how the city works and they’ll come out, ‘Oh we’re delaying the project,’ this and that, really hoping that the community will just go away,” Avella said. “It has to be made quite clear to the administration that we don’t consider a delay a victory. We don’t consider a traffic study a victory.”

Neither the Economic Development Corp. nor the DOT returned calls for comment on whether the traffic study was scheduled prior to Padavan’s request and if the city could potentially abandon the project.

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

Updated 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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