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Editorial: Seeking balance

By The TimesLedger

Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has shown leadership and vision in commissioning a comprehensive review of the zoning for his entire district, which includes Bayside, Whitestone, College Point and Little Neck. Avella knows that his constituents are frustrated by growth and expansion. And he is right when he says that in the past the zoning laws were passed piecemeal without legislators seeing the larger picture.

In Avella's district and throughout Queens, developers are buying up old houses, tearing them down and building multiple-family housing without concern for quality of life. “They are allowed to do this,” he said, “because the zoning permits it. As a result, our neighborhoods are disappearing.”

As an example of the changes that have taken place in College Point, critics point to the condo and townhouse communities that have sprung up on the College Point waterfront. It is true that this housing has changed the look and feel of College Point and put pressure on the local schools. But it is also true that the waterfront land had been underdeveloped and that the housing was desperately needed.

In coming up with a comprehensive zoning proposal, the challenge will be to protect existing neighborhoods without completely discouraging growth and development.

Striking the appropriate balance will not be an easy task. We look forward to seeing Avella's study when it is finished.

Editorial: One if by land, two if by raft

In an accidental landing on the shores of Kennedy Airport, three young fishermen have pulled back the veil on security at one of the nation's most important airports. A 21-year-old man said he and two teenage boys were fishing from an inflatable raft last week in Jamaica Bay when they got caught in a storm. They washed up on the southeast corner of the airport and walked unchallenged for a mile down a runway until they came to a police building.

In the same week an international arms dealer from Forest Hills was arrested in New Jersey on charges of attempting to sell 50 surface-to-air missiles to men he allegedly believed were Al Qaeda terrorists. Had the terrorists succeeded in buying SAM missiles, they could have stood on the same runaway at JFK and blown a 747 out of the air.

Or they could have stood in McNeill Park in College Point and targeted airliners landing and taking off from LaGuardia like ducks in a shooting gallery. While security guards were busy examining luggage and shoes on the sidewalks outside of the two Queens airports, the waters that border the runways were left virtually unprotected.

Like the three fisherman, we assumed that no boat could get close to these runways without being challenged by heavily armed security. And we certainly thought that no one could gain access to the runaways without at least tripping an alarm that would trigger an aggressive response from law enforcement.

For reasons that make good sense, the Port Authority is reluctant to discuss the details of airport security or the lack thereof. But the Port Authority should be both embarrassed by the shocking lapse in security that was exposed last week. In the wake of 9/11, New Yorkers have the right to expect better.

We applaud the three hapless fishermen for having the courage to go public with their story. And we applaud the federal agents who risked their lives to pull the plug on the alleged arms traders. We trust that the story of the fisherman will result in greatly improved security surrounding both airports.

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