A meeting arranged by state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) with the NYPD on why the agency had moved its tow pound to the College Point Corporate Park without notice was canceled last week with no new information released.
Avella was not given a reason for the cancellation or told when another session could be held. He and Community Board 7 officials are puzzled and angered by the move.
The senator learned in September that the NYPD had moved its tow pound from under the Kosciuszko Bridge in Maspeth to a site at College Point Boulevard and 31st Avenue without notifying anyone. The corporate park is specially zoned and any change needs to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process.
The location is owned by Ares Printing, which is subleasing the site to the police. Chuck Apelian, chairman of CB 7’s Zoning and Land Use Committee, said Monday he does not know if the subleasing is legal.
The city’s largest tow pound was originally located in the corporate park at a different site nearby, bounded by Ulmer Street, College Point Boulevard, 28th and 31st avenues.
The city took over the tow pound property in 2010 to build the new Police Academy. It is expected to be completed later this year.
The ousted tow pound was supposed to move to a location at Kennedy International Airport but that did not work out. The Maspeth site was then the only tow pound in Queens; now it’s in College Point.
Avella said Tuesday “the whole thing smells,” and noted that the original tow pound in the corporate park was supposed to be temporary and lasted 20 years.
He is still pushing for a meeting with the NYPD, as is CB 7, but no date has been set.CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said she was told by police that the agency was filing for a “temporary ULURP,” but added she’s never heard of such a thing.
Detective Cheryl Crispin, a spokeswoman for the NYPD, told the Chronicle that the location is temporary and the ULURP process has been initiated.
But many in the area are fearful that temporary will become permanent. Bitterman questioned why authorities erected security lights and special fencing if it’s just for a short time, adding that police once again “are parking all over the streets” in the corporate park.
Avella is angry that no one in the community was notified about the move and also questions its legality. “They knew a year ago that they had to move [due to bridge work] and you don’t do it without contacting the proper people,” he said.
According to the state Department of Transportation, the project to build a new bridge next to the Kosciuszko is scheduled to begin this winter, with a completion date scheduled for 2018.
Avella added that the corporate park has become “a dumping ground” for city and state agencies. “How much more can the area withstand?” he asked.
The senator said he will not drop the issue and is pushing for a sitdown with police and plans a press conference to pressure the city to change its plan.
“It is simply unacceptable for this tow pound, which will have a profound effect on traffic in the area, to move into the corporate park ...” he added.
CB 7 officials say the corporate park has narrow streets and heavy truck traffic. They believe adding a towing operation just worsens the situation.
Andrew Rocco, president of the College Point Civic Association and a member of CB 7, said the audacity of the NYPD to move the tow pound without authority doesn’t surprise him. Rocco is concerned about the added traffic in the area when the Police Academy opens and when the nearby Linden Place extension is finished.
“We don’t want the tow pound and we want answers,” he said. “Added police presence is good, but we want the police presence in town, not through stolen and impounded cars dragged through the area.”
He warned the NYPD that there would be protests if the pound continues to operate for an unspecified length of time.
Bitterman noted that Ares Printing, a Brooklyn-based firm, was awarded the corporate park property around 2003. It wanted to expand from 100 to 250 employes. “They built a facility but didn’t move in,” she said. “There is 41,250 square feet of building with 85 parking spaces plus 44,000 square feet of open space.”
The corporate park district was implemented in 2009 to update the 40-year-old urban renewal plan set to expire later that year. Paul Graziano, an urban planner who worked with Avella in downzoning northern Queens, said Tuesday that he was involved in writing the legislation for the special district, which allows for mostly M-1 and M-2 light industrial, commercial and retail buildings.
He is not in favor of the new tow pound. “It is not an appropriate use,” Graziano said. “It was not part of the deal when the Police Academy went in.”
Gene Kelty, chairman of CB 7, said he is furious about the move: “The police have not been forthright. They should be a good neighbor and do it the right way, but they lie about everything there.”
Kelty suggested putting the pound at 1 Police Plaza and seeing how they like it.
Bitterman agreed with Graziano and Kelty. “One of the provisions the board made in approving the Police Academy was that the tow pound would not come back and that police would honor parking signs in the corporate park. I don’t believe anything they tell us,” she added.