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Queens Chronicle

Con Ed Land Lease Plan Stirs Opposition In Astoria

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Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2008 12:00 am

The Astoria community is strongly opposing the potential lease or sale of a portion of a vacant lot owned by Con Edison.

The land in question is about 20 acres in size. If developed, its entrance would be at 36th Street and 19th Avenue, according to George Delis, district manager of Community Board 1. Major concerns include increased traffic and development in what is already a heavily industrialized area.

Bob Magee, a spokesman for Con Ed, said the company is in discussions with developer Steel Equities regarding the potential sale of part of the property. He indicated the process has just begun, and that Steel Equities is meeting with various interested parties to get community feedback.

“Nothing has been finalized yet,” he said.

But several community leaders were not pleased with the way the community was informed. Delis said he heard about it through an area industrialist, then invited representatives to attend CB 1’s district cabinet meeting last week.

Representatives from Carey Group LLC — the company representing Steel Equities — said Federal Express is interested in developing the site as a ground station for local deliveries, according to Delis.

The plan would include housing about 40 vans and delivery trucks at the facility, and building a 220,000 square foot building to store packages, he added. It would also mean increasing truck traffic along Steinway Street and throughout the nearby residential community, Delis said.

Michael Carey confirmed that “FedEx is the prospective tenant,” although he made it clear that nothing has been finalized.

Allison Sobczak, a spokeswoman for FedEx, also noted that it is still early in the process and that the group will continue to have an open dialogue with the community.

“This is not a fait accompli,” Carey said, adding that future meetings will be scheduled with the community.

On Tuesday night, CB 1 approved a letter, addressed to the state’s Public Service Commission, opposing the plan. The PSC is the agency that would need to offer approval.“This is a big project, this isn’t something small,” Delis said. “This is not a done deal.”

The letter cites several reasons why the deal would be detrimental to the community, including the site’s proximity to Rikers Island, LaGuardia Airport, the Grand Central Parkway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and area power plants.

The community board also noted that hundreds of trucks from Astoria’s industrial area use its local streets, and expressed concern about adding additional truck traffic.

Members suggested Con Ed create a recreational facility on the lot rather than lease or sell part of the property.

Carey noted that the plan would create several new jobs in the area — about 500 construction jobs and 300 or more permanent ones. The community board was concerned additional workers in the area would also contribute to increased traffic.

Rose Marie Poveromo, president of the United Community Civic Association, called the plan “totally unacceptable,” and noted that Con Ed did not reach out to the community. She hopes it will pull the deal.

Elected officials, including Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. and Assemblyman Michael Gianaris, also sent letters to the PSC voicing their opposition to the plan.

“A new Federal Express facility will have an immediate and detrimental effect on the community, which already shoulders its fair share of burdens,” Gianaris wrote.

He also noted the 2006 blackout that affected over 100,000 western Queens residents, as well as the utility’s request for a rate hike. “It is clear the people of western Queens have already endured much financial and emotional hardship from this company,” he added.

Vallone noted that his office has received a number of complaints from residents in the upper Ditmars area, “already burdened with an overwhelming amount of truck traffic coming from the industrial area on the northern waterfront near Con Edison.”

Both Vallone and Gianaris have requested that the PSC disapprove the plan.

Welcome to the discussion.