College Pt. shops opening amid civic concerns

College Pt. shops opening amid civic concerns
Photo By Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

The Point 128 hotel and mixed-use complex in College Point, formerly known as the Gelmart building, is nearly open for business, although some civic leaders are worried an impending glut of traffic could come along with it.

The complex sits on 20th Avenue between 127th and 128th streets and boasts a wide range of amenities: a 114-room hotel, full-service supermarket, 300-seat seafood and sushi buffet, indoor swimming pool, gym, karaoke establishment and rooftop terrace — all of which the team at Point 128 believes will be a boon to the area once the staggered openings are complete in September.

“I think it’s going to do wonders for the neighborhood,” said Peter Reyes, general manager of the Hotel de Point.

Reyes and the lead architect, Raymond Chan, envision the 147,000 square-foot complex, a $7 million undertaking, as a one-stop shopping destination for resident and hotel guests.

Aside from the major attractions, the basement of the refurbished building, which used to house a rubber and bra factory, will have a laundromat, possibly a bank and several small restaurants that can be used by workers in the area eager for a decent lunch.

The hotel is extremely high-tech and environmentally friendly, according to Reyes, as well as visually sleek and modern.

The chic design is a common theme throughout the building, including the rooftop terrace boasting unadulterated skyline views of Manhattan to one side and the Bronx-Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges to the other.

But according to Andrew Rocco, of the College Point Taxpayers Civic Association, those choice views come at a price.

“We can’t handle a massive development like that,” Rocco said. “We are a small, residential community, and people moved here for that reason.”

Rocco contends traffic on the perpetually clogged 20th Avenue — one of only four roads that cross the Whitestone Expressway and lead into the isolated neighborhood — is only going to get worse. Rocco questioned how 127th Street, which is where the complex’s parking lot is accessed, can accommodate ingress and egress when it is so narrow that city buses take up the majority of the street as they run their route.

But state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who once opposed the development and even sought to have the former factory landmarked, said Chan has been working with his office to try and minimize the impacts of the development.

“He’s willing to address the issues,” Avella said, citing the fact that Chan nixed the idea of another upscale restaurant in the building and is going to widen 127th Street by several feet at his own expense, with the blessing of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the city Department of Transportation.

Chan also contended that the uses at Point 128 will be staggered — for example the hotel and karaoke club will be used mainly at night while the restaurant, supermarket, swimming pool and gym will be used during the day — so that there will not be a rush of traffic at any one time.

William Woo, vice president of Kam Man Foods, is heading up the Chinese grocery store that will go on the first floor.

He is going through pains to ensure the sharp-looking emporium will be more inviting to non-Chinese speakers than other outlets in Flushing.

“We want the second generation, we want the first generation and we want people who are just interested in Chinese food,” said Woo.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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