Tag Archives: CB 7

Alleged coverup of contaminated College Point soil brought to light

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Tony Avella's office

Officials and College Point residents are looking for answers after fuel-contaminated soil was found and left unreported at the Linden Place Project of the College Point Industrial Park.

Dr. James Cervino—a College Point marine pathologist and Community Board 7 (CB 7) member working as a consultant on the project—uncovered the contamination on a recent trip to the site.

A dug-up portion of a runway previously used by the former Flushing Airport revealed visible pools of fuel in the soil underneath. Workers in the area were wearing face masks for protection, and Cervino said that several of them had reported feeling ill.

Cervino then alerted the contractor and on-site engineer for the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC) of his findings.

“I did what I was supposed to do, thank God, and I reported it,” Cervino said. “The engineer was very upset and said, ‘You’re going to stop this project if you report this.’”

According to Cervino, CB 7 and local civic groups had received multiple reports from College Point residents regarding a smell of petroleum believed to be related to the ongoing projects in the College Point Corporate Park.

When he contacted the community board to follow up on the issue, he was alarmed to find that the contaminated soil had still not been reported. It was at this time that he contacted state Senator Tony Avella for his help in calling attention to the issue.

“It was pretty crazy, and it’s unfolding as we speak,” Cervino said at a community board meeting Monday.

Avella held a press conference on Monday near the site to address the issue, and said public safety should not depend upon the conscience of a lone whistleblower. He demanded that the EDC halt their project pending an investigation and answer the allegations.

“To knowingly conceal petroleum-contaminated soil and repurpose it use throughout the city is utterly disgraceful and borders criminality,” Avella said. “EDC has shown that it is willing to expose people to a substantial health hazard, if it means preventing a delay on their project in College Point Corporate Park.”

In a statement released to The Courier, an EDC spokesman said that the organization was investigating the claims of contamination.

“We are working closely with the Department of Environment Conservation to assess the area and determine if additional needs must be addressed in our mitigation efforts. In the meantime, no work is ongoing on this portion of the site.”

The NYCEDC manages the College Point Corporate Park on behalf of the City of New York.

According to the EDC website, the College Point Corporate Park contains more than 200 companies and 6,000 employees in various industries. These include The New York Times’ printing plant and other firms involved in office operations, light and heavy manufacturing, construction equipment suppliers, printing, distribution and retail.

The reconstruction of Linden Place began in spring of 2009 and the street is currently open to traffic today. Portions of the area at 132nd street are still under construction.

Linden Place road connects from 28th Avenue to 23rd Avenue, providing direct access to the Whitestone Expressway and will alleviate traffic flow within the park. The planned extension of 132nd Street will connect 20th Avenue and Linden Place and will also help to alleviate traffic.


CB 7 votes no to design update for SBS plan connecting Flushing to Jamaica

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Images courtesy of the MTA

Community Board 7 overwhelmingly voted on Monday night against a design update given by Department of Transportation (DOT) officials on the Select Bus Service (SBS) route proposed to connect downtown Flushing to Jamaica.

The proposal got 32 votes against it, and only two board members voted in favor.

CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty criticized the DOT, saying that officials at the meeting did not realistically address the concerns of board members.

“If it’s good for them, it’s always good for them,” Kelty said. “And I’m sorry to beat them up but that’s exactly [what I can tell you] from 30-something years on this board.”

“It’s just not a really popular concept,” added Warren Schreiber, third vice chairperson of CB 7.

The main contention stemmed from skepticism on the merits of creating a designated bus lane in downtown Flushing, an infamous center of traffic congestion.

Board members believed that prohibiting vehicle access on bus lanes will only serve to worsen traffic. The bus lanes will be utilized by both SBS and regular MTA buses, as well as those of private bus companies, but privately owned personal vehicles will only be able to drive in general traffic lanes.

Concerns were also raised among the board that traffic would be slowed down if all private drivers in the transit hub were forced to fit in a single lane. They also alleged the congestion would be mainly detrimental to private vehicles with buses allowed to use the only general traffic lane in addition to the designated bus lane.

Members also expressed concern on the width of the proposed lanes, saying that the large public transit buses would not be able to adequately maneuver if confined to a single lane, or fit within the lane on wide turns.

The entire presentation given to CB 7 can be found on the DOT website.

The plan to implement Select Bus Service on the Q44 line is meant to move buses faster and and improve the connectivity between Queens and the Bronx.

Fare collection will take place on curbside machines managed by the MTA, and will be randomly enforced by transit inspectors. Riders pay with MetroCard or coins before boarding, take a ticket from a machine and will then be able to board bus through all three doors.

The implementation will also include repavement of the general traffic lanes and the installation of dedicated bus and right turn lanes alongside a curbside parking lane. Pedestrian sidewalks are also set to be made wider to accommodate dense foot traffic in the district, and stations for the new buses will be equipped with real-time estimates for its arrival.


CB 7 says grand jury subpoena for information rescinded

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

A federal grand jury subpoena seeking information from Community Board 7 (CB 7) was rescinded because the board agreed to comply with requests for information, according to the advisory body.

Another Queens newspaper published a report last week about CB 7 being issued a subpoena on an order issued by the grand jury in the Eastern District of New York on May 29 for records concerning their land use decisions. The request covered a time span of January 2005 to the present, and included minutes from board meetings, Land Use sub-committee meetings, letters, memos, recommendations and other communications from the board Land Use committee to CB 7, among other documents.

“A subpoena was issued requesting meeting records and committee reports,” according to a CB 7 statement on Monday. “In discussions with the city Law Department and the U.S. Attorney, we made it clear we would disclose the issuance of the subpoena to the full board membership.”

The U.S. Attorney’s office subsequently agreed to rescind the subpoena in exchange for full compliance from CB 7 regarding the matter. The documents provided to the grand jury are all available to the public.

CB 7 insisted that the investigation related to the rescinded subpoena does not center on the board or any of its members.


NYPD to sign 20-year lease for College Point tow pound

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of George Filippidis

Community Board 7 gave the NYPD its blessing Monday night to sign a 20-year lease on a tow pound previously under a temporary agreement to operate at 31-22 College Point Blvd.

After hearing both sides of the debate, the board voted overwhelmingly to recommend that the tow pound stay, with 29 votes supporting the long-term arrangement and 14 votes against.

The tow pound appeared on the lot in 2013 to the chagrin of College Point residents, who feared that the facility would increase traffic and weaken streets already riddled with potholes and deteriorating roads. The area also hosts a new police training academy which opened in January.

With an average of 40 to 50 cars towed into the facility daily, the tow pound is estimated to generate additional traffic of around 60 cars per day including cars towed and employee vehicles. The location has on-site parking for employees, and can accommodate 157 cars.

Despite area residents’ initial reservations, police say they have not received any complaints in the two years of the tow pound’s operation in College Point.

Owners Jerry and George Filippidis, brothers who are both residents of the area, assured board members that they were trying to consider the good of the neighborhood by choosing the relatively lower traffic tow pound than a big box retailer.

The area is currently zoned for retail use, so no additional approvals would be needed for a large store to occupy the building. According to Jerry Filippidis, a large retail store could generate traffic of more than 50 cars and trucks per hour coming into the site.

“I wanted to be able to look every single one of you in the eye and let you know that we made the right decision,” said Jerry Filippidis, who has lived in the community for 25 years.


Community Board 7 calls for denial of College Point land sale

| agiudice@ridgewoodtimes.com

Photo by Anthony Giudice

A local high-tech manufacturing company was at the center of a heated College Point land deal debate at Monday’s Community Board 7 (CB 7) meeting in Flushing that culminated with a thumbs down from the advisory body.

S&L Aerospace Metals LLC, located at 120-22 28th St. in Flushing, is looking to purchase two plots of land from the Economic Development Corporation (EDC). One plot of land is owned by the city and the other is owned by the EDC.

To purchase the city-owned land, S&L had to submit an application to the Department of City Planning (DCP) to comply with the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). Once the application was accepted, it was sent to the community board for review.

The board was to vote on whether to recommend allowing the sale of the city-owned land to S&L. Then, the Queens Borough Board will follow with its own recommendation, and the City Council ultimately has the final say in the decision.

The debate on whether or not to recommend allowing the sale came about because, after an asphalt company, Cofire Asphalt Corp., acquired some of the land in a 2010 land swap, Cofire did not take proper care of the plot.

“The deal was they were going to clean it,” explained Chuck Apelian, first vice chairman of CB 7. “They were going to maintain the operations at the site…the stipulations were all part of the deed restriction. None of these took place.”

Even though the previous deal was not handled correctly, the board made it abundantly clear that they support S&L and their operation.

“I support S&L; they know it,” Apelian said. “I also explained to them why we did what we did and we think it is ultimately to the benefit of, not only the community, but to S&L and everybody that this gets done the right way.”

“We can’t approve a land sale of contaminated land that was supposed to be cleaned up five years ago,” he added.

While some members agreed with Apelian, others felt that recommending denying the sale would be punishing S&L for something they had no control over.

“If this was a final vote and we made the decision tonight, you’d be right, we would be punishing them,” Apelian told those in favor of recommending the sale. “But we’re not punishing them because we’re not making the decision. We’re making a recommendation to the others in the process and ultimately to ones that make it.”

Ultimately the board voted 33 to three to recommend to deny S&L’s application to purchase the land.

The recommendation will now be presented to the Queens Borough Board, which has 30 days to make their recommendation.


Willets Point developers discuss affordable housing, ramps at meeting with community board

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Ramps and affordable housing were at the heart of the first quarterly meeting between a local community board and developers of a major Willets Point redevelopment project.

Related Companies and Sterling Equities briefed Community Board 7 on October 17. The meeting was the first of four this year required under a last-minute pledge they made to sway the board towards approval. The joint venture must put $100,000 into a traffic fund for each one missed.

CB 7 Vice Chair Chuck Apelian said the city officially allocated $66 million in its capital budget for the design and construction of traffic ramps that will lead into the transformed Willets Point mixed-use development.

The ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway were necessary to fulfill the affordable housing portion of the major $3 billion redevelopment project.

“The key is that we didn’t have in our hearings any confirmation that there would be money to build these ramps,” Apelian said.

There was also some insight into housing site plans, including affordable units for seniors, Apelian said.

The joint venture is eyeing one location in Flushing near Main Street by the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) station and plans to build about 235 units in Corona, Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, according to CB 7.

Developers promised the City Council in October they would move up construction of the total 2,500 housing units — 35 percent of which will be affordable — from its original set 2025 date.

They are also discussing plans to expand LIRR service to Willets Point, according to Apelian.

The city currently owns 95 percent of 23 acres in the project’s first phase, according to New York City Economic Development Corp. There is no timetable as to when the remaining properties will be acquired, Apelian said.

“They still don’t own it all and until that time, they can’t transfer the property to the developers, so nothing will move forward,” he said. “It’s going to be an all or nothing proposition.”



Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote

| mchan@queenscourier.com


Plans for a behemoth mall at Willets Point received a key nod from Community Board (CB) 7 after the city and the facility’s developer laid out a list of new commitments.

CB 7 granted a special permit to Sterling Equities and Related with a 22-18 advisory vote. The joint venture wants to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center at Willets West.

The board’s land use committee, including CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty, voted down the permit in a meeting last week.

But a pair of letters detailing a list of new promises by the developer and city swayed them at the last minute.

“I changed my vote tonight because I had papers in front of me that I felt comfortable with,” Kelty said.

“The other time, there was nothing. I was looking at a blank slate in front of me.”

In April, the committee told developers they needed more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.

The Queens Development Group and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel returned with pages of new promises, including a pledge to provide ongoing environmental remediation of all 23 acres of Willets Point land the city is acquiring from the current occupants.

The pair of letters also detailed commitments to conduct and fund traffic mitigation measures, build a 1,000-seat K-8 public school and give $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund.

Developers also agreed to put $100,000 into the fund for every quarterly meeting with CB 7 that they miss.

“There was just a lot more that was brought into language in both these letters,” said Chuck Apelian, CB 7’s first vice chair and head of the land use committee. “That’s why I’m supporting this, and I think we’ve come a long way.”

The recommendation now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the Department of City Planning and then the City Council.

Ethan Goodman, a lawyer representing the developer, said there would not be another chance to clean up the long-neglected property.

“A vote against this plan is a vote against cleaning Willets Point,” he said. “We’re talking about 100 years of contamination. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Queens Development Group said in a statement the approval brings them “one step closer” to transforming the area into “a vibrant new neighborhood.”

However, dozens of local residents, including current Willets Point landowners, pleaded with the board to vote against the permit.

“We have jobs over there,” said Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee. “I don’t know why you’d want to approve the project and kill all those businesses. We are workers over there.”

Joseph Ardizzone, the only person who lives in Willets Point, said democracy died with the board’s green light.

“Anyone that votes yes to taking my property denies me the right to be an American citizen,” Ardizzone said. “God bless America? I don’t think so anymore.”

Residents protested the delay of affordable housing during Community Board 7’s vote on Monday. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)