Bloomberg To Maspeth:


The battle over the proposed development at the former Elmhurst gas tank site apparently may see the end most desired by the community. The mayors visit last week to a Halloween fund-raiser for Councilmember Dennis Gallagher was no surprise, but to many in attendance the mayors remarks were very pleasantly surprising. During his comments, Bloomberg made the announcement that he would be returning to the community within about 60 days to deliver a message that they (the community) would like.
According to Chris Coffey, spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, "The mayors Community Assistance Unit has really done the job of bringing this message back to the mayor. We are aware that the community does not want to see the proposed development at the old gas tank site and we are working to make sure that does not happen." Coffey said that opinion on what should be done with the site is leaning toward an open community space such as a park.
Much speculation has arisen as to the plans to wrestle the property away from The Mattone Group whose proposal for the site includes a Home Depot, bank and other retail outlets. Elected officials on every level of city, state and federal government have rallied together with the intention of raising enough money to purchase the property from KeySpan while trying to get the energy giant to tear up the contract they have with The Mattone Group.
Chris McCannell, chief of staff for Congressman Joseph Crowley, told The Queens Courier that the congressman and all other elected officials involved have delivered a loud and clear message to KeySpan and The Mattone Group: There is no acceptable alternative for the community but to tear up the existing contract.
The fund-raising charge to acquire the funds for the purchase of the site has been led by Councilmembers Dennis Gallagher and Melinda Katz on the city level and have now been joined by Congressman Crowley, Assemblywoman Margaret Markey and State Senator Serphin Maltese.
With respect to the purchase price, KeySpan simply has to show to the Public Service Commission that they are getting value for their shareholders and customers and would not be mandated to fetch the same $14 million for the property that has been agreed upon with The Mattone Group.
According to one KeySpan source who spoke to this newspaper on the grounds of anonymity, "KeySpan has put everyone in a bad position by playing two ends against the middle. This is not a public crusade against The Mattone Group," said the source. "They could be any developer. This is about KeySpan trying to cheat the community out of what they are really entitiled to."
Councilmember Gallager agreed that The Mattone Group is not the focus of the communitys concern. "All we are interested in here is getting this land to be used for the benefit of this community. And the right thing is a space that will provide the community with something they need, not a project that does the harm that the proposed development would do here."
KeySpan insiders have also indicated that the company definitely has a way out of the contract, making the property available for purchase by the city.
Although many feel that the exercise of eminent domain would be a viable alternative to securing the site, most feel the procedure would be a last resort.
President of the Juniper Valley Civic Association, Bob Holden has been at the forefront of the fight to prevent the Mattone aquisition. "I think its all up to KeySpan now. They know the right thing to do," Holden told The Courier. "We really appreciate all the mayors efforts and feel very secure with him on our side. We are going all out against KeySpan and we will not allow this development to happen. When the mayor comes back, Im sure it will be with good news."

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