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Kris
February 23rd, 2003, 11:19 AM
February 23, 2003

It's Back to Nature for a Once Bustling Airport

By DENNY LEE

Takeoffs and landings at the old Flushing Airport will soon be reserved for birds.

The city plans to restore to wetlands 33 acres of the abandoned airstrip, which ranked among the nation's busiest until La Guardia Airport opened in 1939. The plan involves ripping out old hangars, weeds and runways to make way for manmade inlets, native vegetation and the return of wildlife. Soon, the hope is, there will be fleets of herons, raptors and oystercatchers.

"This is the last former airport in the city we've been trying to bring back to life," said David Lutz, executive director of Neighborhood Open Space Coalition. "It has the potential to become the most naturalistic site in northern Queens." The other airports being naturalized include Floyd Bennett Field near Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn, and Miller Field in New Dorp Beach on Staten Island.

The city's Economic Development Corporation, which owns Flushing Airport, hopes to make the design final later this year.

Under state rules the creation of the new wetlands will make the city eligible to add 20 of the airport's 78 acres to the nearby College Point Corporation Park, said Janel Patterson, an E.D.C. spokeswoman. The rest of the land will be a buffer between the wetlands and the College Point commercial area. The corporate park is home to 175 companies, including a New York Times printing plant, and several developers are interested in the site.

"We don't want another shopping mall," Marilyn Bitterman, district manager for Community Board 7 in Queens. said about the new corporate acres. But she likes the openness the wetlands will bring.

Flushing Airport, which closed in 1984, has been a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Over the years, several proposals have been made for the site, including using it as a mooring dock for blimps. "This plan is throwing a monkey wrench into everything," said Alan Gross, president of Airships Unlimited, which made the blimp proposal.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

billyblancoNYC
February 24th, 2003, 12:21 AM
So does this mean the shopping mall is back in play?

I wish this space would be used as a kind of "suburban" office park - to compete with Jersey, LI, and Westchester.

Oh well, I guess time will tell with this too.

Kris
February 6th, 2004, 12:13 PM
Wholesale Center Brings New Life To Former Flushing Airport Site

By Aaron Rutkoff

http://www.queenstribune.com/weekly/Year%202004/020504/feat020504a.jpg
An artist’s rendering of what a new wholesale center partially located on the grounds of the former Flushing Airport, will look like when completed.

The site of the former Flushing Airport, one of the last undeveloped spaces in New York City, will be sold to a group that plans to transform the long-dormant area into a wholesale center for approximately 180 small businesses and importers.

An artist’s rendering of what a new wholesale center partially located on the grounds of the former Flushing Airport, will look like when completed.

As part of the plan, which Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveiled in College Point on Feb. 3, the city will invest $8 million in the reconstruction of Linden Place, remaking the now decrepit roadway into a thoroughfare intended to divert heavy traffic flow away from nearby residential streets.

"This is really good news for the whole city, and it is symptomatic of what is happening in all five boroughs," Bloomberg said. "Jobs are coming back." Bloomberg estimated that the wholesale center would eventually employ more than 1,000 people, including over 400 new permanent job positions and 1,100 jobs created during the construction phase.

The site has long been vacant, and was once home to Flushing Airport, an entity that opened in 1927 but closed after the opening of LaGuardia Airport in 1939.

Not everyone approved of the high-density, high-traffic plan selected by the city, however. "This is city government at its worst. It boggles the mind," said Councilman Tony Avella, who was not present at the press conference even though the Flushing Airport is within his district.

Bringing Businesses To Queens

Many of the companies expected to flock to the wholesale center will relocate from other commercial corridors in the greater metropolitan area, including the overcrowded wholesale districts in Manhattan where businesses have struggled to meet increasing rents.

Pil Jae Im, the head of the business consortium selected to develop the site, knows those problems all too well. His own Korlus Trading Corporation, based in Manhattan, considered leaving New York City as a result of rising costs and traffic problems.

But now he will join the hundreds of importers and light manufacturers that will set up shop in the new wholesale center on the Flushing Airport site, where he believes the climate will be much more hospitable to small businesses.

The complex will provide distribution space for companies that sell consumer goods – such as toys, jewelry and electronics – largely imported from Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe

"Moving to Queens is going to considerably lower their rents and other operating costs, and it will give them room to grow," Bloomberg said.

While the formal sale of the 26-acre Flushing Airport site is expected to take another nine months, the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) officially selected the development plan put forth by the College Point Wholesale Distribution Development group, a consortium of Korean business owners.

The $175 million development plan calls for a series of two-story buildings, each with enough space to accommodate 25 to 75 businesses, as well as a public nature trail that will snake around the protected wetlands area within the airport land.

Im described the agreement as a proud moment for the Korean-American community, and said, "We look forward to working with the city and surrounding neighborhood to create a place where our businesses can grow and thrive."

Traffic Trouble

During the announcement, Bloomberg framed the Flushing Airport sale as a boon to the local community. "This development is going to be a major contribution to the quality of life in Queens," he said. "The city will fund a project at the top of the local community agenda."

Mayor Bloomberg, EDC officials and City Councilman John Liu all stressed that the initiative to turn Linden Place into a traffic artery would significantly improve traffic conditions in College Point. Liu said the refurbished road "will serve to alleviate the extreme congestion we have at 20th Avenue near the Whitestone Expressway."

At the press conference, Liu said that he would seek an additional $1.2 million in the next city budget to connect Linden Place to 20th Avenue. Currently, Linden is blocked off at 23rd Avenue, where a segment of roadway has deteriorated to the point where it can no longer be used.

But Fred Mazzarello, head of a local civic group, remained guarded, insisting that the roadwork be completed well before the wholesale center opens. "You have to build that road," he said. "It has to be done first."

Avella, who represents the area around Flushing Airport, anticipated a surge in truck traffic that would snarl neighborhood streets. "As far as I am concerned, the EDC has said to those communities, ‘Drop dead,’" he said. "This is a nightmare. We have a nightmare now, and this is going to make it worse."

Over-Development?

Homeowners in the neighborhoods just beyond the 550-acre College Point Corporate Park and the adjacent Flushing Airport site have long complained that the thriving manufacturers and mega-stores in the area – lured there in the last decade by the EDC – create traffic gridlock that spills onto the narrow, residential streets.

Within the last six months alone, homeowners have watched as a huge automotive training center and a garment distributor have moved into the Corporate Park – with the help of incentives from the Bloomberg administration. Crystal Windows and Doors, the glass manufacturer who hosted the mayor’s announcement, also plans to expand into a second nearby facility this year.

Andrew Alper, president of the EDC, said that no incentives had been given to the consortium selected to develop Flushing Airport.

Avella insisted that the repairs to Linden Place would not be enough to reduce the already existing traffic gridlock around the Corporate Park – let alone the influx of delivery trucks and customers expected at the wholesale center. He supported a "fly-over ramp," a solution favored by area homeowners that would take traffic directly from the Whitestone Expressway into the Corporate Park, bypassing the congested 20th Avenue.

"The flyover is but is a dream," countered Liu. "We’re talking about a price tag of hundreds of millions of dollars for the flyover." Though Liu said he agreed with many of Avella’s reservations about the wholesale center, he was gratified that the EDC agreed to repair Linden Place as part of the development deal.

Still Protected

Another twist on the Flushing Airport site concerns the protected wetlands that adjoin the property. Within the boundaries of the old airport are 33-acres of wetlands, which underwent a $4.3 million restoration program by the EDC last year in advance of development deal.

Included in the 26-acre parcel that will be sold to the wholesale group are a few acres of wetland, but officials who spoke at the press conference said that they would not be disturbed by the impending construction.

www.queenstribune.com

billyblancoNYC
February 6th, 2004, 02:53 PM
Avella's a pain in the ass. the traffic is caused by friggin' Target and BJs, not by the businesses. This is a great plan and it makes sense. The area around 26st was too crowded for this type of business. This will also open up that prime area for more office, residential, and retail development. It's good to see.

Kris
March 13th, 2004, 09:15 PM
March 14, 2004

COLLEGE POINT

Wholesalers Eye Queens as a Warehouse Wonderland

By JIM O'GRADY

Jay Chung, a wholesaler of desk clocks and snow globes on West 27th Street near the Avenue of the Americas, believes that he and his business partner have found his industry's promised land in northern Queens. It is 26 acres of soggy soil that was once Flushing Airport and is now part of the College Point Corporate Park, a low-lying area convenient to several expressways and La Guardia Airport.

Mr. Chung and 52 other wholesalers have proposed to spend $175 million to construct a two-story, 585,000-square-foot warehouse complex that could be a center for 180 wholesale businesses. In one swoop, the project would shift New York's traditional wholesale district, around Broadway between 25th and 35th Streets in Manhattan, to Queens. And as far as Mr. Chung is concerned, the move cannot come soon enough.

"The rent is sky-high and rising and traffic every day here is worse," he said from his office in Manhattan. "A lot of buyers have difficulty parking, and you need to park to buy." In addition, six residential high-rises have sprung up in the district in recent years, and many of the residents are not happy about living among the cluster of wholesale businesses.

A few weeks ago, the city's Economic Development Corporation chose the warehouse proposal from among 12 plans to develop the site, in part because the agency believes that the center would bring 600 existing jobs to the area and create 420 new jobs over five to seven years.

But some local civic groups and elected officials are unhappy about not having had a chance to evaluate the various proposals. "We never saw them," said Adrian Joyce, a member of Community Board 7. "The mayor spoke out prematurely when he said he was going to do this."

Mr. Joyce said he was concerned that local roads would be overwhelmed by truck traffic and that savvy shoppers might go to the warehouse to buy items at wholesale prices, bringing even more traffic. "Who's going to police them to stop them from selling retail?" he asked.

In response, Mr. Chung said that his company, College Point Wholesale Distribution Development, would turn away ordinary shoppers and allow in only buyers with federal tax ID's for retail businesses.

Janel Patterson, an Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman, said the project would provide other benefits, like the $2 million Mr. Chung's company has committed to build a nature trail around the site's perimeter. The city has also set aside $8 million to improve local traffic flow by repairing and perhaps extending nearby Linden Place, which is closed because of chronic flooding.

But Mr. Joyce and his allies remain opposed. They plan more meetings and - although Ms. Patterson said her agency does not customarily divulge unchosen proposals - they hope to learn about them so they can be presented in the court of public opinion.

"This is not a dead issue," Mr. Joyce said.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company