FEDEX TOLD TO SHIP OUT
Astoria Civic Fights Against Processing Center's Creation
Con Edison plans to sell property located at 18-01 20th Ave. in Astoria to Bethpagebased Steel Equities, which intends to convert the 21.3-acre site into a 225,000-square-foot warehouse and processing center, at a cost of $150 million.
But UCCA President Rose Marie Poveromo, in her opening statement, said "as clearly, candidly and straightforwardly as possible, we do not want FedEx as our neighbor."
The civic association's "vision," according to Poveromo, is that Con Edison cede the land to the city for a park with waterfront access.
"Clearly United Community Civic Association has not supported this project from the beginning," Steel Equities President Joseph Lostritto ceded.
According to Lostritto, his company will own the property and lease it to FedEx for 25 years, with options to extend it to 45 years.
The center will house 80 delivery trucks and 22 tractortrailers when it officially begins service in 2011; this will eventually extend to 146 trucks and 55 tractor-trailers by 2014.
All the parking- including employee parking will be onsite, and all vehicles will enter and exit through 19th Avenue.
"I can't tell you that there's not going to be trucks," Lostritto admitted to the (very hostile) crowd, but added that the shipping company has committed to using state-designated truck routes (23rd Avenue, Steinway and Hazen streets) in the area.
Lostritto also stated that the project will lead to 500 union construction jobs and 400 local FedEx jobs. Local job fairs will be held at area colleges to hire residents as part-time workers, and the company offers assistance with college tuition.
As for the environmental impact, Lostritto noted that over 17 city and state agencies have vetted the project, and have found "no significant impact to the area" from the project."
He added that the trucks will have diesel fuel filters that, combined with a new federally-mandated diesel fuel to go on sale in 2009, will cut vehicle emissions down by 90 percent.
In addition, the shipping company and real estate firm have committed to clean up nearby Luyster Creek, including the dredging up of sunken barges and restoration of the waterfront,
-SEE UCCA ON PG. 76- crowd in front of several maps of the proposed FedEx facility in Astoria. and plant 500 trees in the area.
"It's going to be completely different than the way it is today," he said of the site.
Finally, Lostritto noted that the site sits in an M3-1 manufacturing district, which allows for construction of up to 1.8 million square feet, and uses including, but not limited to, garbage incinerators, fertilizer manufacture, manure storage, slaughterhouses, tar production, metal refineries, and insecticide plants ("everything that kills you," noted one resident).
"I know the community would wish that this was a park, but Con Edison is going to sell the property, whether it's to us or someone else," he told the crowd.
The proposed construction would be done "as-of-right."
Poveromo countered that "once you develop the site, you're gone. FedEx will be here. FedEx will be using our streets."
"We don't want you or FedEx here," she told the developer.
Anthony Gigantiello, who heads a local group called Citizens Hoping for a [K]leaner Environment (C.H.O.K.E.), threatened protests and other actions to prevent the deal.
He brought up issues of pollution, noise and traffic, especially on 21st Street.
"I promise you I will organize a protest and we'll go to the streets and we're going to protest in front of your plant the first chance you start digging," Gigantiello told Lostritto. "One way or another, we're going to get you out of here."
One resident asked Lostritto why the company didn't choose a different area, such as Long Island City. The developer replied that it's a central location that allows the company to disseminate packages throughout the borough.
"Ninety percent of the packages in this facility will be deliv ered within Queens," noted Lostritto.
Another resident asked Lostritto if the public will have access to the waterfront. Lostritto stated that the company is working on it with the city.
He parried the question to Jennifer Manley of the city's Community Assistance Unit, who stated that, while the transaction is "in many, many, many ways, out of the city's hands," if Con Edison were to cede the land to the city, the city would take it with open arms.
UCCA's own plans
Hiram Rothkrug, the civic group's environmental consultant, issued a wide-ranging report on the different aspects of the deal.
"The reason why it's before your community board (Board 1) is because they're going for IDA (Industrial Development Agency) financing, which is available in the Steinway Park Industrial Zone," he stated.
He criticized Steel Equities for going through the city Economic Development Corporation, a process that allows Steel Equities to forego the city's "more lengthly" review process.
In the company's Environmental Assessment Statement (which, Rothkrug noted, cost the firm over $100,000), he noted, truck traffic and employee figures are spread out over a 24-hour period.
Rothkrug argued that if truck traffic were to be concentrated in a small time frame (7 to 8 a.m., for instance), it would trigger health problems that would require further study.
"By doing the environmental assessment, they've gotten a sign-off on issues such as traffic and noise and air quality, because it is spread out over a 24-hour period," he said.
He did tell the crowd that the M3-1 zoning could bring worse uses than the proposed facility. 'That's the flip side of the coin- be careful what you wish for," said Rothkrug.
"What could we do to ensure that the community could be safeguarded?" he asked.
Some ideas include the use of biodiesel, adherence to state truck routes, enhancement of the waterfront, and limiting future expansion of the facility by downzoning it to an M1-1 zone.
'You have some kind of nerve'
The start of the meeting was marred by a shouting match between Poveromo and Rodolfo Sarchese, president of the Astoria Homeowners Association.
Poveromo accused Sarchese of spreading rumors "furtively" that she was in the pocket of Con Edison and local politicians.
Sarchese stood up and told Poveromo that his civic group also stands against the FedEx center and in favor of the park, but added that "you have five meetings- I think this is the sixth meeting that you have [had]."
"If you don't want it, you should have said it the first time," he told the UCCA president.
"You have some kind of nerve," thundered Poveromo. "This association has fought for 20 years for this community. We don't take anything from elected officials."
The two would spar at several points throughout the meeting.
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