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State Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) is calling on the state to require public utilities to submit an application to community boards and take part in public hearings when they attempt to sell part of their property following Con Edison's negotiations to sell a portion of its Astoria facility to Federal Express.
Public utilities currently must submit an application to the state's Public Service Commission to sell portions of their property as well as apply for all necessary city permits.
But Gianaris introduced a bill earlier this month that would require utilities to also submit applications to their local community boards should they decide to sell portions of their property. Under the legislation, the board would have 30 days to submit its recommendation to the PSC and public hearings would be required.
"Local residents deserve a seat at the table when decisions are made that will affect their neighborhoods," Gianaris said. "My proposal would require the community's concerns to be addressed before any land sales are approved."
A PSC spokesman said the commission has the authority to review any proposals by public utilities to sell parts of their property. But he said the state does not require utilities to present their plans before community boards or residents.
The assemblyman's bill follows on the heels of Con Ed's negotiations with FedEx to sell a portion of its 20th Avenue site in Astoria to the shipping giant. Con Ed spokesman Robert McGee said the utility was still in discussion to sell part of the site, but nothing has been finalized.
"Assemblyman Gianaris' legislation is unnecessary," McGee said. "The PSC already encourages us to interface with community boards."
Gianaris and neighborhood residents have complained that locating a FedEx distribution center on 21 acres of Con Ed's property would further damage the community's quality of life, which is already plagued by airplane noise from LaGuardia Airport and traffic from Rikers Island.
George Delis, district manager of Astoria's Community Board 1, said the bill would give the community and the board more of a voice on how public utilities conduct themselves in communities.
"Con Ed is a very big utility and it has an awful lot of property, so they should consult the community board for opinions when they do anything," Delis said.
FedEx spokeswoman Allison Sobczak said the company plans to move out of its current Maspeth headquarters to the Astoria site, relocating 188 employees and creating 300 new jobs. She said an estimated 80 delivery trucks would visit the site each day, while 50 tractor trailers would pull into the distribution center at night.
Sobczak said FedEx has met with residents and western Queens leaders on the proposal to purchase part of Con Ed's property.
"FedEx wants to maintain an open dialogue with the community boards and the community," she said.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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