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Traffic fears dog plan for police academy

Residents and officials in College Point are experiencing a wide range of reactions in the wake of the 47-2 City Council vote last week to construct a new $1 billion police academy in College Point.

The planned 3-million-square-foot academy, which will replace the 40-year-old Manhattan facility currently in use, will bring both benefits and headaches to the surrounding area, residents say. But longtime members of the community, already weary from the effects of recent development, mostly see the academy as an overwhelming negative for the neighborhood.

“Do we want it? No. It’s too much congestion. We have so many cars this place has become just a noisy mecca,” said Rose Onofrio, a College Point resident since 1959 who said over-development, noise pollution and traffic drove her parents to move to Long Island after decades in the once-quiet neighborhood. “It’s really just too much. We’re a small town to take on such a large project. It never should have come here. It’s just wrong. They’re taking away every quiet block we have.”

But Indra Bahl, a managing partner of VRI Group, which owns the Lukoil gas station overlooking the 30-acre academy site bounded by 31st Avenue, College Point Boulevard, 28th Avenue and Ulmer Street, said the new customer base it will bring will be a boon for local small business owners.

“Traffic it might hurt, but for business it will be good for the community and, of course, it will be good for safety,” he said in between ringing sales on the Lukoil register last week. “It will help my business, having extra people. It will be a big boost for me, the deli down there, all of our businesses.”

Councilman-elect Dan Halloran said Monday the academy plan is a “great idea, but lousy execution,” adding he would have either voted against the proposal or voted to have it tabled until its problems were properly addressed. Current Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) voted against the proposal.

“We already have a problem with trucks on College Point Boulevard. What’s going to happen when we quintuple the number of cars coming in and quadruple or quintuple the parking needs there? And it’s like 15 or 20 blocks from downtown College Point, so it’s not going to bring any new business there,” he said in an interview with the TimesLedger. “Is it good for College Point? Probably it would be if all these things were accounted for.”

The academy site, which NYPD spokesman William Winning described as “ideal,” will bring NYPD programs such as emergency vehicles and firearms training into one location with 250 classrooms, a field house, a tactical village, facilities to mimic prisoner processing stations and a simulated subway station to permit training in biological, chemical and radiological attacks.

It will have space for 2,000 recruits per year and refresher programs for officers and members of other law enforcement agencies.

Halloran questioned the wisdom of such a massive expenditure considering the budget difficulties facing the city.

“In a time when we can barely afford to keep our schools open, is it worth it to spend $1.5 billion?” he asked. “Or are there better ways we could have gone about this?”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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