Tag Archives: Community Board 7

Facing strong opposition, developer to build just 52 homes on Whitestone Waterpointe site


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

52-home plan

Whitestone can breathe again.

Following unyielding pressure by residents and politicians, including the announcement of a planned protest, developers of the 18-acre Waterpointe site are returning to the original proposal of 52 single-family detached homes instead of one that would have had quadruple the number of units.

Officials from Edgestone Group, which purchased the land at 151-45 Sixth Rd. for $11.3 million in 2012, decided to change course after negotiating with Councilman Paul Vallone. Both parties confirmed exclusively to The Courier that the developer will return to the original proposal the community supported years ago instead of the recently unveiled 107 townhouses — possibly avoiding a war in Whitestone.

“So much has been talked about this site, and now you’ve got a community fearing the worst,” Vallone said. “I’m proud to work with [the architect] Joe Sultana and the owners to get their commitment to go back to the original agreement, because that’s really what everyone has always wanted.”

Also, the developer will keep plans for community amenities, including a much-needed two-acre waterfront park, promenade, a 60-boat marina, and potentially an “eco-dock” from which residents can fish and go kayaking.

In a Community Board 7 (CB 7) committee meeting last month, Edgestone unveiled its updated plan for the property, which included 97 two-family townhouses and nine additional single-family townhouses, for a total of 203 units.

Whitestone Waterpointe piece

The backlash by residents and politicians was strong. They complained that it would dramatically impact the community and put a burden on schools, roads, sewers and other public systems. Also, they said the townhouses would ruin the contextual character of the neighborhood, which has mostly single-family detached residences.

“[The developer] is doing the right thing for the community,” said Joe Sweeney, a member of the CB 7 Zoning Committee. “He’s basically responding by meeting community wishes and not disrespecting the community. That plan would have had a tremendous effect.”

Edgestone initially turned away from the 52 large single-family homes because they would each have to retail for $2 million, a price tag the group figured would take longer to sell.

However, the developer agreed to the old plan because they’ll be able to begin working faster on the long-stalled development site.

“What it’s come down to is the developer wants to start working on this,” Sultana said. “If we go to the 200 units or anything else but the 52 [homes], we’d have to refile and go through city approval all over again and that’s probably going to take a year and a fight. So the developer is eager to get started. ”

Sultana couldn’t yet give many details about the homes, but said 40 of them will be between 2,000 to 3,000 square feet with private yards and garages. The remaining 12 will be bigger, more luxurious homes, closer to the waterfront.

An environmental cleanup of the site will begin later this year. After the site has been cleaned, the developer will reapply for the original special permit for 52 homes, which has since expired.

Despite this news, residents are still planning to hold Sunday’s rally hosted by the We Love Whitestone Civic Association at 1 p.m. in front the site.

“Absolutely,” said Alfredo Centola, president of the civic group. “How do we know this is not just a ploy to get us to back away, and as soon as we turn away they change again?”

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More than 100 townhouses, park and ‘eco dock’ planned for Whitestone Waterpointe site


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Joseph Sultana Architects

Many Whitestone residents recently exhaled when they learned the new owner of one of two massive vacant development sites in the area agreed to work with the community’s wishes and construct dozens of single-family homes.

Now community members may start holding their breaths again.

Edgestone Group, which owns the 18-acre vacant Waterpointe site at 151-45 6th Rd., plans to construct 107 residential buildings on it — more than double the number of units that were originally promised for the property years ago.

Plans for the project, which were revealed at a Community Board 7 committee meeting on Tuesday, call for 97 two-family townhouse homes and nine additional single-family houses. In total there will be 203 units and most of the units will be two-bedrooms.

Years ago, developer Bayrock Group, which paid $25.7 million in 2005 for the property, originally had Department of City Planning special permits to build 52 single-family homes on the property. This plan was also supported by the community. However, the company fell apart financially and Edgestone purchased it at a discounted $11.3 million in 2012, city records show.

State Sen. Tony Avella has already declared war on Edgestone’s project, because its much larger than the original 52-home plan, although it still meets zoning regulations.

“This kind of threat to the neighborhood will not be tolerated,” Avella said. “It is time for us to take a stand against overdevelopment once and for all.”

In Edgestone’s plan, there will be two-car parking for the townhouses. Also, the new community includes a park at the waterfront with a walking path, a playground, a marina, a pier and an ‘eco dock’ from which people can go kayaking. There is also a 107th building that residents can use as common space for events.

Members of the community board were very cold toward the plan. Kim Cody, a member of the board and president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, pointed out that the project will flood the community with hundreds of new residents, which will burden schools, roads, sewers and other public systems.

“You’re going to put a lot of stress on our community,” Cody said. “It’s unneeded stress.”

Edgestone representatives said at the meeting that single-family homes wouldn’t “make sense,” because they would have to retail for $2 million each, and that would take too long to sell.

Architect Joseph Sultana, who grew up in Whitestone, added the more affordable townhouses gives younger potential residents the ability to purchase homes in Whitestone, one of Queens’ more affluent neighborhoods, and elderly residents will also benefit.

“My parents are getting older and they have a nice house in Beechhurst, but they don’t need a big house,” Sultana said. “They need to figure out where to live because they are thinking about selling their house.”

Currently, Edgestone is still working to remediate the site, which is covered by toxic soil that the former owner brought in. Representatives of the firm said they hope to start trucking contaminated soil from the site in September at the earliest.

This didn’t help warm the mood of the meeting, as members of the board are afraid toxic dust from the soil can spew into the community during transport.

“What I learned tonight is this is going to have a much [more] major impact on the community than I originally thought,” said Joe Sweeney, a member of CB 7. “In the end, yes it might be affordable, but at the detriment of the rest of the community.”

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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.

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Flushing community criticizes modern look of planned building


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Renderings courtesy of Raymond Architecture

Flushing’s Great Wall is being torn down.

Great Wall Supermarket, on Northern Boulevard and Leavitt Street, will be replaced next year by a glass-clad, 11-story building after the supermarket’s owners decided to not renew the lease, according to city records. The proposed building’s modern, sleek look will tower next to the Civil War-era Flushing Town Hall, causing many in the community to criticize the new building for not conforming to the appearance of its historic neighbor.

“This thing looks like it’s something out of Miami Vice,” Flushing resident Vincent Amato said. “You can kiss goodbye any sense of history this neighborhood still had.”

Despite community resistance, Community Board 7 passed a request to change the area’s zoning, allowing the building’s developer, George Chu, to move another step closer toward his goal of developing a mixed-use building with a hotel, store fronts, community space and apartment units.

Flushing Town Hall wrote a letter expressing their support of the new development, and the planned community space will be used often by Town Hall events. During the community board meeting, the board members defended their decision to allow the building to be constructed.
“We’re not granting something that’s significantly different then what could be there,” Chuck Apelian said. “None of us are negligent of the history.”

FLUSHING_2

Flushing Town Hall was once the center of civic life, serving as the seat of local government until the mid-19th century before Flushing and other towns in Queens were absorbed into Greater New York City.

But now it is a lone reminder of the past in the center of a new Flushing that is undergoing a building boom. Nearby, a similar plan for a mixed-use building, including community space and a hotel, has been approved and is set to be built.

The hotel in the new building at the Great Wall site will occupy floors three to eight, with the top three floors divided into 43 apartment units. There will be 10,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor for restaurants and coffee shops, according to Eric Palatnik, the developers’ spokesman.

“We’re going to liven up the street with a sidewalk plaza area,” he said.

As the meeting ended, Apelian said, “This is a tragedy not just for Flushing, but the whole nation. Hundreds of years of American history will be overshadowed by this new building.”

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Plans resume to turn historic T Building into affordable housing


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A proposal to turn the historic T Building on Queens Hospital Center’s grounds into 206 units of affordable housing has resumed after several years of missteps and controversy, according to local leaders and a politician.

As part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing initiative, the city has restarted the process of turning the former tuberculosis center in Hillcrest into a residential building.

But plans to do something with the medical building go back to at least 2012 when the Queens Hospital Center worked with a nonprofit human services agency to develop the dilapidated 10-story building on its campus into 251 units of affordable housing. Community leaders and politicians like state Senator Tony Avella killed that plan, along with others.

“The new proposal is much better than the original proposal,” said Avella, who has been working closely with the community and city officials to develop plans. “Are there still things that have to be worked out? Of course. We want some more details. And we will continue to crystalize the plans.”

The city’s plans for the building are still in the early phases, and the city hasn’t publicly released any details. But, according to Avella, the new proposal addresses all of the issues raised by the community – from preserving the historic building to making sure that the community is comfortable with who the new residents will be.

During a recent Community Board 8 meeting, board members expressed concern over plans to make 75 of the apartment units into studios that will be occupied by hospital patients who are discharged and have nowhere else to live.

“It makes no sense,” said Maria Deinnocentiis, a community board member. “We said we needed affordable housing, not this. I’m worried that these homeless people will be there so close to our schools and children.”

But Avella confirmed that the city and a private consulting firm they hired, Dunn Associates, would do a rigorous background check for the hospital patients who become residents. Plans haven’t been finalized and it might be more than a year before any construction starts.

“I was the one that led the fight to kill the original proposal,” Avella said. “They learned that they have to talk to the community and that’s what they’re doing. We’re approving a general theme to work out. It’s a step in the right direction.”

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Board approves Greek-American school expansion in Whitestone


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Giannopoulos Architects

Follow me @liamlaguerre

 

Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church is planning a $1.5 million expansion of its elementary school in Whitestone, and recently cleared a major hurdle in the process.

Community Board 7 voted almost unanimously, 35-1, on Monday to allow a variance for the planned expansion of the Efstathios & Stamatiki Valiotis Greek-American Day School, which sits on 12th Avenue and 150th Street.

The school currently enrolls pre-K to third grade, but administrators want to provide nursery to fifth grade education.

The building expansion proposal includes raising the ceiling on the school’s attic level to create a full second floor, as well as expanding the side of the building on 12th Avenue more toward the street. Also, the school’s parking lot will be rearranged more efficiently and about half a dozen new spots will be added.

The expansion will include much-needed classroom space and other amenities, including a computer lab. The Greek Orthodox community showed strong support during the vote, and parents and residents said it will benefit the neighborhood.

“It’s great for our families and it’s great for the community,” said Chris Koukounas, a parent of two students at the school.

“Right now we don’t have enough square-footage per child. There are fewer facilities, we don’t have a science and computer lab, the lunchroom is very packed, and it’s not a safe environment.”

The school’s enrollment for its Greek-American day school is about 180 students. The expansion will allow for 250 students.

For the board to agree with the proposal, its Land-Use Committee had stipulations to increase safety. Holy Cross has agreed to the conditions, which include putting a stop sign on the corner of 150th Street and 12th Avenue.

Councilman Paul Vallone is working with the Department of Transportation to have the stop sign added, and the legislator voiced his approval of the expansion.

The recommendation from the board, as well as a letter from Councilman Paul Vallone, will be sent to the Board of Standards and Appeals, which has final say on the expansion.

 

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Community Board 7 votes to name park after fallen fire marshal


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Randall Wilson

A fallen Queens fire marshal may soon be honored in a way that would allow his young twin boys to grow up realizing their father’s legacy.

Community Board 7 voted Monday to name a playground in Fort Totten after Martin “Woody” McHale, 50, who died of a heart attack in his car Christmas Eve 2012.

McHale, who lived in Hollis Hills, suffered the attack on his way home from work and crashed his car into a tree less than 200 feet from his house, police and the Queens Medical Examiner’s office said.

“Woody was a role model. He was a mentor. He was a fireman’s fireman,” said his boss, Commander Randall Wilson of the FDNY’s Bureau of Fire Investigation. “His heart was always in the right place, and if more people had a heart like his, the world would be a much better place.”

McHale, a member of the FDNY for 23 years, was assigned to the bureau’s Citywide North Command in Fort Totten. He would bring his twin 4-year-old boys to the currently nameless playground next to his job on his days off, Wilson said.

“He only had a few short years to spend with his sons,” the fire commander said. “Many of those days were at the playground on Fort Totten. His boys loved it there and Woody cherished the time spent at the playground with them.”

The change needs to be approved by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s Parks Department commissioner.

A bar in the West Village was named after McHale while he was alive.

“Having this park named in his honor would show generations of children just how wonderful he was,” Wilson said. “It would be a legacy for his family and for the fire marshal’s department.”

Community Board 7 also approved a $2.4 million capital Parks Department project to rebuild the crumbling sea wall at Hermon A. Macneil Park in College Point.

The City Council funded plans also include creating a separate fishing area and a kayak launch at the park. The plans still need state Department of Environmental Conservation approval.

 

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Star of Queens: Kim Cody, president, Greater Whitestone Taxpayer Civic Association


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Kim Cody

KATELYN DI SALVO

COMMUNITY SERVICE: Kim Cody is the president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, a group that is made up of volunteers devoted to the betterment of the community.

BACKGROUND:  Cody has been married to his wife Marlene for 38 years. Both grew up in Whitestone and are very devoted to giving back to their community.  Cody has been a resident of Whitestone since 1955, and he still lives in the same house he grew up in.  Marlene, now the vice president of the association, is also the reason Cody became involved in the group.

Cody, a retired detective, praised his wife for getting him involved in such an active and important group.

“For some reason she thought I would be a good addition to the board, so I went on as the police liaison, and over the years I moved up and became president two years ago,” Cody said.

GOALS:  The association was charted in 1985 and has been located at the State of New York Armory on 6th Avenue in Whitestone for about 30 years. This location serves as both a senior center, and a community center where kids can play sports for free.

“We do all this to try and keep the kids off the street as much as possible,” said Cody.

In the coming year, Cody would like to continue the work the association has been doing, as well as see more people get involved.

“We are seeing a lot of new families coming into the community and we would love to see them get involved, so we try to make ourselves known so people feel welcome to join,” Cody said.

FAVORITE MEMORY: For two years, Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association has held a community event called the Whitestone Park Family Appreciation Day. The group managed to plan a free festival where there was food and entertainment for kids to raise money for both the senior and community center and the veterans’ memorial parade committee.

INSPIRATION: Cody’s biggest inspiration is his wife Marlene.

“She is totally dedicated to this community,” Cody said. “She and a couple of other women go in and they take care of so much.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: With working a full-time job and also being a member of Community Board 7 and attending meetings for other groups, Cody has a full plate. Therefore, his biggest challenge as president of the association is simply not having enough time to serve the community.

 

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Board approves variances for 12-story hotel, 14-story office building in Flushing


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of Richard Lobel

A luxury hotel, under parent company InterContinental Hotels Group, may be coming to downtown Flushing.

Community Board 7 gave developer CA Plaza its advisory approval Monday to build a 12-story Hotel Indigo on Prince Street and a 14-story general office building on Main Street.

The board granted two variances to change the use of the office space from medical to general and to reduce the number of required parking spaces from 377 spots to 305.

Developers bought the 36-18 Main St. site in 2006, according to attorney Richard Lobel. They already had two special permits, approved by the board last November, to include a spa in the hotel and to build the office to 189 feet and the hotel to 154 feet.

The project now goes to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for the final green light, though the hearing has not yet been calendared.

Community board officials said the project is heavily dependent on whether the city decides to install a traffic light on 36th Avenue and Prince Street to ease traffic the development is expected to bring.

Construction is slated for 2015.

 

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Borough Board approves $1 sale of Willets Point


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

The project to build a shopping center next to Citi Field is on the move.

The Queens Borough Board voted on November 18 to allow the city’s Economic Development Council to sell the 23 acres of land for $1 to the Queens Development Group. The land is needed for the Willets Point project and would be cleaned up to make way for a 1.4 million-square-foot complex which will consist of a mall and housing units with commercial and retail space.

“After carefully reviewing the Willets Point proposal and taking my district’s needs into account, I am confident that this development will be a win for my constituents, a win for Willets Point, and a win for the great City of New York,” said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area and voted yes to the proposal.

All seven councilmembers on the board who were present during the meeting and Borough President Helen Marshall voted yes to the proposal. The only no vote came from Community Board 7’s Chair Eugene Kelty.

“The votes in favor of this proposal give us the unique opportunity to remove the blighted history of Willets Point and ensure it is a place for families to enjoy living and shopping for years to come,” said Ferreras.

The City Council approved the $3 million Willets Point project in October.

 

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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.”

 

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Community Board 7 approves Bowne House visitor center designs


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering by Parks Department

Designs for the new $2.7 million Bowne House visitor center include a smaller-than-planned building and sliding, wooden barn doors.

Community Board 7 approved the Parks Department’s construction plans for a 1,250-square-foot center, that will be free to the public, on October 28.

It is 400 square feet smaller than originally proposed, officials said, and will be located southeast to the historic Bowne House at Bowne Street and 38th Avenue in Flushing.

“Essentially, our design intent is to work as gently on the property as possible, to build as small of a building as possible, to serve the needs of the Bowne House Historical Society,” said Julie Nymann, a Parks deputy director of architecture.

The 1.5-story building will have a gallery, lobby, two restrooms, a small office and areas for mechanics and storage, Nymann said. Mostly school groups will use the center, she said.

It has a wood-like look with American Cedar sliding barn doors and a musket-gray roof, said the Parks Department.

Surrounding fences and some trees in poor health will be replaced during the project, Nymann said.

Construction is expected to be completed in less than two years, according to a Parks spokesperson.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office both need to approve the design, and the city’s Department of Buildings needs to issue a permit, before any work is done.

This summer, officials broke ground on a $3.2 million project to restore the Bowne House, a 17th century symbol of religious freedom and one of the oldest structures in the city.

The city-landmarked house will get a new roof, gutters, pipes, wood wall shingles and steel columns, among other exterior restorations.

It was built in the 1660s by John Bowne and used for Quaker meetings when religious diversity was forbidden by law.

The house is a “quintessential reminder of our nation’s religious history,” Nymann said.

 

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Push to rename Flushing street for gay rights activist


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Councilmember Danny Dromm’s office

A trailblazing gay rights activist who left her stamp on the world as a historic and heroic leader may soon be memorialized on a Flushing street sign.

Community Board 7 passed a motion on Monday to honor Jeanne Manford with a street-name change for standing up for gays and lesbians at a time when homosexuality was still considered a mental disorder.

Manford started a local support group in 1972 for parents of gays and lesbians. It turned into a worldwide movement called Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) that now has more than 350 chapters and 200,000 members in the country.

She also supported her gay son by famously rallying with him at the New York Pride March.

Manford died this January at age 92. She was posthumously awarded the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal.

“It’s emotional for me as an openly gay legislator in the City Council,” said Councilmember Danny Dromm. “What Jeanne did took extreme courage to do in 1972. Times have changed tremendously, but in those days, she could have lost everything.”

The lawmaker and community board want to co-name 171st Street, between 33rd and 35th Avenues, to “Manford Family PFLAG Way.”

The Manfords lived on the street and took in youngsters who were thrown out of their homes for being gay, Dromm said.

“Jeanne Manford was to us what Rosa Parks is to the black civil rights movement,” Dromm said. “It took an act of courage by a mother for the love of her son.”

However, Flushing resident James Trikas and board member Nick Corrado, who is also an FDNY chief officer, disagreed.

They said street-names should be reserved for military, police and fire department officers killed in the line of duty.

“If you want to memorialize things, well, put a plaque somewhere, landmark their house if you want,” Trikas said. “It does not belong on the street sign.”
Corrado, the only board member who voted against the motion, touted

Manford’s legacy but said it was not on the same level as those who serve the city, state and country.

“As wonderful as those acts of kindness are, I cannot, in my own opinion, say it’s the same as laying down your life — your life — for someone you don’t know at all in the line of duty,” he said.

Community Board 7 approved the proposal 30-1. The motion now needs approval from the borough president and City Council.

“If you open a history book on the LGBT movement, she’s in these books,” said Democratic State Committeeman Matt Silverstein, who is openly gay.

“This is someone who made an extreme impact on our community. I think it’s an incredibly deserving honor.”

 

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Borough President Marshall OKs Willets West


| mchan@queenscourier.com

File rendering

Borough President Helen Marshall approved a special permit that would pave the way for a mega mall near Citi Field.

Marshall gave developers Sterling Equities and Related Companies the thumbs up on July 2 to move parking for Citi Field to Willets Point. The joint venture ultimately needed the permit to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center west of the baseball stadium.

Community Board 7 gave its green light in May, but both the board and borough president had conditions for their endorsements.

They said the joint venture must keep surrounding communities and leaders informed of the project’s progress and traffic problems that arise.

The city and the facility’s developer must also fulfill written commitments they made, which include funding traffic mitigation measures, building a 1,000-seat K-8 public school, giving $1.87 million to the Willets Point

Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund and hiring locally.

Marshall said the $3 billion project would provide 7,100 permanent jobs and generate more than $310 million in tax revenue.

Among the speakers at Marshall’s June 6 public hearing, 20 people opposed the project and two others were in favor of it.

Community Board 3 voted 31-1 against the application on May 13.

The project awaits the Department of City Planning, which held a public hearing July 10 but did not make a recommendation as of press time.

The City Council is expected to meet August 21 to give the final vote.

 

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Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote


| mchan@queenscourier.com

willets4

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)

 

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