By George Tsai
The land is by MacNeil Park and the East River. If completed, the housing cluster there will command a spectacular view of Manhattan's skyscrapers and, of course, the East River traffic. It could be the envy of its neighborhood. The only flaw, apparently, is the reported toxic soil that could pose health threat to its future dwellers. The land was a dumping site, according to records.I am a regular MacNeil Park stroller. But a couple of colds and the flu had kept me from going there for several weeks. Recently, I resumed that routine walking to the park.To my surprise, the dense grove of trees on the controversial plot was gone, leaving just a bunch of stumps. The bare site gives me a feeling of emptiness. I deem those trees and bushes a natural part of the park. So every time I walk to that area I take a long look at the cleared site, thinking of possible consequences of the development.A few days ago, I talked to a middle-aged lady in front of her house across the narrow street from the parcel. She shared my feelings. As a matter of fact, she was angry at what's going on over there. She's worried that co-op or condominium buildings may rise on the property. She's also concerned about the environmental problems that will come with the development.A lover of nature, I oppose any project to emerge on that property because it would spoil the serene beauty of the park. State and local elected officials have been fighting fiercely to stop any development at the site. And I am sure they will fight the battle to the bitter end.In an open letter to state Attorney General Elliot Spitzer that was published a couple of weeks ago in the TimesLedger, state Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn and City Councilman Tony Avella urged him “to take immediate legal action to prevent any construction.” It may be too late, though.Spitzer is a busy politician. He has been occupied with his fight against Wall Street scandals one after another. In the meantime, he has been toying with the idea of seeking Gov. George Pataki's post. So I doubt he will be able to divert his attention to an environmental bickering in a small town like College Point.In the letter, Mayersohn and Avella took the state Department of Environmental Conservation to task for approving “a voluntary cleanup program” for this site. Hopefully, more concerned residents will join their fight.On the other hand, if a thorough laboratory test of the soil turns up no toxic substance, then we can't help but let the developers implement their plans with restrictions. Developers should take note, however, that multiple co-op units or duplexes would cast an ugly shadow over the park and, therefore, should be scrapped from their original plan. This town has more than its fair share of these types of structures. But a few upscale homesteads could brighten the area's image.The construction business is a lucrative one. During the past three years, the industry has created many millionaire builders locally. No wonder developers have made every possible effort to hunt for hot properties for development.After the Fifth Avenue lot, there is no developable land left in College Point, except the former Flushing Airport across from the 20th Avenue Mall and the College Point Corporate Park. The contentious developments on these two sites may have bitten the dust. But don't write them off yet. They could be revived because both had the backing of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.The former Flushing Airport sale attempt was hot news for a while last year. Local officials and politicos even had mapped plans on how to use the proceeds. Local infrastructure improvement was one of them. I thought the deal would pan out, as the mayor and its buyers had already signed an agreement. Unexpectedly, it fell through because of protests by politicians and residents near the deserted airport with tall weeds. The reason? Traffic congestion. The developers wanted to build a significant number of warehouses there.The Corporate Park met the same fate. It was reported that some companies planned to move their headquarters into the Corporate Park from Manhattan. The biggest concern on the minds of the protesters is also traffic.