City rules out Flushing Airport site for relocation, property owners cry foul

Under a compromise, eight acres of Flushing Airport have been set aside for soft recreation uses or will remain vacant while about 17 acres could be developed later. Map courtesy of Community Board 7

Under a compromise, eight acres of Flushing Airport have been set aside for soft recreation uses or will remain vacant while about 17 acres could be developed later. Map courtesy of Community Board 7

The city formally told Community Board 7 Monday it will not move businesses from Willets Point to the vacant Flushing Airport site, a move property owners call “discriminatory.”

As reported earlier this week, the Economic Development Corp. struck a compromise with CB 7 leadership on its future plans for the College Point Corporate Park, which includes the former airport.

The city not only agreed to permanently protect 8 acres of the 25-acre Flushing Airport site from any major development, but also added a stipulation that no Willets Point businesses would be moved to the remaining 17 acres in the future.

After being presented with the city’s concessions, CB 7 promptly voted 40-0 to allow 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 plot and move asphalt plant Cofire Paving Corp. to a new location.

The deal was hailed as a major victory by CB 7 members but has been panned by Willets Point business leaders who worry that the city does not have enough land available to relocate the more than 200 businesses who have not struck deals with the city.

“I think it’s discriminatory,” said Jerry Antonacci, co-owner of Crown Container Co. and president of Willets Point United Against Eminent Domain Abuse. “I think they have no right to say that and I think it’s foolish to say that. ”

The stipulation that no Wilets Point businesses be moved to the area was guaranteed in a letter to CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian from EDC Executive Vice President Madelyn Wils. Before the vote Monday, Apelian said it was a protection the community had requested and rejected the notion that it was contradictory.

“I think that’s a comfort we wanted and I don’t see any problem with that,” Apelian said. “When we voted [on the Willets Point redevelopment plan] in June, we wanted the businesses to get relocated. We just didn’t want them all coming to us.”

Reached for comment, the EDC said the Flushing Airport site has never been seriously eyed as a relocation site for Willets Point businesses, despite rumors to the contrary.

Flushing Airport is a natural wetland with bedrock in excess of 100 feet below ground level, which presents considerable challenges to construction.

The EDC said even if development is possible on the remaining 17 acres, putting infrastructure in place to sustain development will likely be an expensive and lengthy process — which it said would not accomodate near-term relocations from Willets Point.

Antonacci noted, however, that the EDC has previously said the amount of city-owned land that can accommodate industrial and manufacturing uses like those at Willets Point is small, and said taking any land off the table is short-sighted.

“They already admitted they have no land.  And if they just took this land off the table, whatre you going to do?” he said. “I think it’s going to come back and bite them.”

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