Study Blasts Flushing Airport Plan
By Aaron Rutkoff, Queens Tribune Online
An environmental scientist has released a detailed study of the ecological conditions on the Flushing Airport site, calling into question the environmental impact and long-term feasibility of the EDC-backed plan.
James Cervino, a marine pathologist from Whitestone, spent months analyzing the protected wetlands enclosed within the Flushing Airport area.
His study raised alarming questions about the damage that a dense commercial plaza, like the wholesale center, may cause in the delicate wetlands ecosystem.“I found that there is a significantly functional wetland there,” Cervino told the Tribune this week. “Let’s forget about the owl that may be there, the silly little turtle—and let’s talk about all the fresh water that’s there.”
According to Cervino’s study, which he discussed with Councilman Tony Avella and sent to Mayor Bloomberg, intensive construction on the fragile wetlands within the airport site may disrupt and contaminate underground aquifers that extend all the way to the Jamaica Bay wetlands area and out into Nassau County.
“Stopping insensitive and intrusive development of these vital wetlands is imperative for sustaining surrounding wetlands and their freshwater supply,” Cervino wrote. He fears that the “semi-permeable soils” in the area will make the vital aquifer “highly susceptible to contamination from activities on the land surface.”
The damage to local ecosystem wrought by the wholesale center cannot be overstated, Cervino says. “Such development can be expected to cause the extermination of migratory birds, invertebrates, terrestrial foliage and salt-marsh grasses and other potentially significant wildlife,” he reported.
As College Point and Whitestone residents took to the streets on March 13, with as many as 200 rallying behind a group of politicians, local leaders continued to press for the to release information about the development proposals that were rejected in favor of the wholesale center.
Last month, Councilman Avella filed a Freedom of Information Law request to secure all records from the EDC concerning the Flushing Airport. EDC officials have said that they do not typically reveal information about rejected proposals.
Gene Kelty, chair of Community Board 7, told the Tribune that two rejected developers had volunteered copies of their plans. To his surprise, both plans had elements that were consistent with community requests. “They are exactly what we are looking for,” Kelty said.
Before the fallout from the Flushing Airport announcement, Kelty said he had assumed that the wholesale center must have been among the few proposals put forth for the site. “That’s what I kind of thought happened over here at the site, which I’m looking at as a kind of swamp land that is going to have a lot of physical work done on it before you can build,” he said. “I just assumed there were only one or two proposals that came in.”
Now, however, he suspects that the 11 rejected proposals, like the two he has seen, had elements that would have appealed to the community.