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City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and several dozen people led a second rally against city plans for the College Point Corporate Park Sunday, but not all of the attendees were firmly behind him.
Avella has been fiercely opposed to a series of plans for the 550-acre Corporate Park during the last year, a position he insists is right for the community, but it has eroded his relationship with several community leaders.
In the last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has floated proposals to enact a new special zoning district in the area to replace an expiring urban renewal plan, moving five businesses he once called “blighted” from Willets Point and the construction of a nearly $1 billion police academy — all of which Avella, a mayoral candidate himself, has called misguided.
College Point used to have a small town mentality,” Avella said outside the College Point police tow pound Sunday. “As soon as the corporate park began to be developed, that small town mentality began to change.”
Referring to a popular computer game, Avella said, “it’s like the mayor is playing ‘Sim City’ with College Point.”
Avella contends a proposed special zoning district should include a provision protecting the corporate park from adult establishments and said no Willets Point businesses should be moved to the neighborhood.
Both proposals were approved by Council Zoning and Planning committees Tuesday and were expected to come up for a full vote on Wednesday.
Avella said he was able to win a concession from the city on a special zoning district, which he voted to approve. He said the city agreed to ban any open-air manufacturing uses — such as auto-salvage yards — from moving to the corporate park in the future.
Avella said plans for the police academy complex, which could bring upwards of 5,000 people a day to the facility, are far too large and would inundate the area with traffic.
“This is not the way to do planning in New York City,” he said.
The Council is expected to vote on the police academy this fall.
Avella’s position has not sat well with some community leaders, however. Community Board 7, which conditionally approved all three projects, has been a target of Avella’s criticism as a result.
CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian and College Point Civic Association President Joseph Femenia, who both attended the rally, called Avella’s criticism unfair.
“He’s making a campaign speech right here,” Apelian said. “The fact of the matter is he refused to work with the community board since January. He walked away from us.”
Apelian and Femenia actively negotiated with the city during the public approval process on all three projects and pointed to several concessions the board was able to get promised by the mayor’s office in writing, including $70 million in sewer and roadway projects and eight acres of the corporate park set aside as parkland.
Asked about the promised projects, Avella was blunt.
“I don’t believe it,” he said. “You can’t trust this administration to do anything they say they will and that’s been proven time and time again.”
Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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