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MTA and city are depot despots: Pols

Legislators and residents joined together at the corner of 49th Street and Galasso Place in Maspeth to protest a potential city and MTA plan to place a depot for 150 Access-A-Ride vehicles in that spot, saying the area is already overburdened by depots and traffic.

“I am outraged,” said City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), “absolutely outraged and livid that the city of New York would attempt to sneak a depot into Maspeth.”

Van Bramer said he had begun to hear rumors two weeks ago that a depot would be coming to the unused industrial property, but had not had it confirmed until Feb. 28. He said the Metropolitan Transportation Authority had once considered the spot for a depot, but rejected it as unusable for their purposes.

Yet the idea to use the spot came up again after residents in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, rejected a depot on 65 Commercial St. that is currently being used to store Access-A-Ride vehicles, saying they wanted the space for a park.

“I think it’s nice Brooklyn gets a park, but we need green space as well,” said Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5.

Aaron Donovan, spokesman for the MTA, said the MTA still officially plans to keep the depot in Brooklyn, but due to resident protests the agency has agreed to relocate if an alternative site can be found.

Andrew Brent, a spokesman for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office, said the city is working with the MTA to move the location of the depot from Brooklyn.

“One of the sites being looked at is in Maspeth, but nothing is final and there are no plans to move it yet,” Brent said in an e-mailed statement.

But Van Bramer insisted the city and the MTA were poised to make the decision to place the depot in Maspeth without alerting the community or conducting an environmental impact study.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), whose district does not cover the area but is adjacent to it, also said the depot would bring more traffic into her district, which has high rates of residents with asthma and respiratory problems.

“Enough is enough,” Crowley said. “Maspeth is not a doormat.”

State Assemblywoman Marge Markey (D-Maspeth) said this was not a “Not in My Back Yard” issue. She said the largely manufacturing/industrial area already has two depots and is overburdened with truck traffic, which it is trying to alleviate.

“This is a disgrace and I really think the city of New York has egg on its face,” Markey said.

Roe Daraio, president of Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together, said she was outraged that the city would think of putting money into cleaning the polluted site at 49th Street and Galasso Place when it has not turned the former site of St. Saviour’s Church, at 57-40 58th St. in Maspeth, into a park, a longtime hope of many community members and civic activists.

“You’re just adding more traffic and we’re adding more pollution,” Daraio said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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