CB 7 rips EDC, threatens veto of Willets Point biz moves

The College Point Corporate Park Task Force is demanding the city set aside the abandoned Flushing Airport site for light recreation and parks uses.

The College Point Corporate Park Task Force is demanding the city set aside the abandoned Flushing Airport site for light recreation and parks uses.

Community Board 7 and College Point leaders threw down a gauntlet before the city Monday night.

At a meeting of the College Point Corporate Park Task Force, CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty told city Economic Development Corp. officials flatly that the board will not approve any plans to move five Willets Point businesses to the College Point Corporate Park unless the abandoned Flushing Airport site is set aside for parks or soft recreation.

“With the EDC, it’s always talking with nothing coming out and I’m tired of that,” Kelty said in an interview Tuesday. “If we’re going to relocate these guys, then what are you going to do to help out the community?”

The development represents an about face for the task force and could set the stage for a very public fight over the issue.

The city is hoping to relocate five industrial businesses from Willets Point, where a massive redevelopment plan was approved in November, to the 550-acre College Point Corporate Park. The task force, which oversees development at the Corporate Park, heard presentations from each of the businesses — Feinstein Ironworks, Flushing Towing, Met Metals, T. Mina Supply Co. and Sambucci Bros. Auto Salvage — on their plans to relocate at the board’s Monday meeting.

Task Force Chairman and CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian said the presentations went well, but the tone of the meeting quickly turned sour afterward.

“We’re taking on these businesses when the community was promised years ago that we wouldn’t have to take on these types of businesses,” Apelian said. “We just said we’re not going to do it unless you give us something. I think they were shocked to their shoes.”

Apelian tabled the discussion and set another meeting for April 2. Though it once served the majority of the air traffic in the city, Flushing Airport has remained vacant since it shut down in 1984. Urban Planner and Historic Districts Council President Paul Graziano and marine biologist James Cervino are hoping to find a developer who could put between $50 million and $75 million toward a recreation facility that could include baseball fields, a driving range, an education center and nature trails all designed within an environmentally sustainable framework.

Reached for comment, the EDC issued a statement Tuesday downplaying the meeting’s fireworks.

“Last night, the board expressed support for the important businesses seeking to bring jobs and economic activity to College Point. We look forward to working with the community board to ensure outstanding questions are addressed and we can move forward with their approval,” the statement said.

But Kelty said if the EDC wants his board to approve its plans, it better get to work.

“They don’t have much of a window, but they better go talk to [Deputy Mayor Robert] Lieber and they better go talk to the mayor and tell them that they need to get something done,” he said. “I’ll screw them to the wall as much as possible.”

The snag in the process comes after members of the task force, which is comprised of College Point civic leader and Community board members, had viewed the proposal to move the businesses with a degree of optimism.

Both Apelian and Kelty said the dispute had less to do with the Willets Point businesses themselves than it did with a pattern of the city sidestepping community interests on the path to development.

“We got the marine transfer station. We said fine.  We got the police training academy that’s going up on College Point Boulevard. We didn’t like that too much but we said O.K.,” Kelty said. “Last night was just another piece of icing on the cake.  They want these five businesses to come into the area. They’re not the best businesses, its not something that’s really going to help the Corporate Park.  So if we’re going to relocate these guys, then what’s the city going to do to help out the community?

“This community, they’ve taken their beatings, its time the city caught up.”

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