By Michael Morton
The project, which could result in five two-family homes being built along 148th Avenue on two lots between 226th and 230th street, falls within 150 feet of the edge of the environmental zone, and as such must receive approval from the state Department of Environmental Conservation under state law. The agency is currently considering the request but does not know when a decision will be reached, a spokeswoman for the department said.”DEC takes protection of the wetlands very seriously,” the spokeswoman said.But Barbara Brown, the president of the Springfield/Rosedale Community Action Association and the leader of the Eastern Queens Alliance, an area environmental advocacy group, said she is concerned the department will start approving applications to build inside the 150-foot zone because of the high demand for housing.”We don't want to see further encroachment in the wetlands,” she said. “It's our goal to keep these properties vacant.”Brown cited a plan from more than 11 years ago in which a developer wanted to build homes in the same area. He said the company had at the time filled in land near the corner of 148th Avenue and 226th Street. Then-state Assemblyman Gregory Meeks eventually stopped the project, but not before two homes were built on the landfill without the DEC's objection, Brown said. In the last couple of years, residents have reported that the filling in has continued near the corner, the civic leader said. Brown's Eastern Queens Alliance has compiled a list of more than 60 vacant area properties, all either wetlands or former wetlands that could be rejuvenated. The group will like to see them used for parkland or privately conserved through city tax incentives.Along 148th Avenue Tuesday, a worn wooden construction fence guarded the weed-strewn property, some of its panels lying on the ground, others advertising two-family homes and town houses for occupancy in spring 2005. A call to the listed toll-free number, however, revealed it had been disconnected.Reached by another phone number, the developer behind the project would not identify himself or the name of his company. Despite indications to the contrary on the city Department of Buildings Web site, the developer said the firm did not own a nearby property, which may or may not be a part of the five-home development, at 226-16 148th Ave. under investigation by the DEC.The DEC spokeswoman said the agency would consider the impact of the company's request. Wetlands are valued for the habitat they provide to birds and young fish as well as the filtration of runoff and erosion control.”It's been decimated since the 1950s,” Community Board 13 Chairman Richard Hellenbrecht said of the ecosystem. “We're very concerned about the health of Jamaica Bay.”Hellenbrecht also said placing buildings too close to the wetlands would leave unsuspecting buyers with homes prone to flooding.”There's tremendous pressure for additional housing in the area,” Hellenbrecht said. “Left unchecked they would develop anything.”Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.