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City to restore wetlands around abandoned Flushing Airport

By Alex Robinson

The city is set to restore 12 acres of wetlands surrounding Flushing Airport as part of a plan to extend 132nd Street in College Point.

The city Economic Development Corporation released a public bid last week to find a general contractor to work on the project, which will restore the open wetlands that are home to many plant and animal species.

The restoration work is required by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and will also form a stable foundation for the roadway, the EDC said.

The restored wetlands will also provide a habitat for wildlife life to thrive and will filter toxins from water which drains into Mill Creek and Flushing Bay.

The Flushing Airport was once one of the city’s busiest airplane hubs before it was closed in 1984, but has since sat idle and vacant.

Part of the site, which is not protected as wetlands, came close to being redeveloped in 2004, but plans pushed by the Bloomberg administration to build a 585,000−square−foot wholesale distribution center were scuttled amid significant community opposition.

A few years later, a number of community leaders tried to convince the EDC to build a soft recreation site there. It would have included baseball fields, a driving range, an education center and nature trails, all designed with green infrastructure in mind, but the city did not approve the plan.

A spokesman said EDC continues to explore possibilities for the site.

James Cervino, a marine scientist who pushed for the soft recreation site and the chairman of Community Board 7’s Environmental Committee, said that if the land is redeveloped for industrial use, it will require a buffer zone around it to ensure the wetlands are not contaminated.

“A buffer in the development is very critical,” he said. “If you put in an industrial footprint, you’re probably going to contaminate the wetlands.”

The 132nd Street extension, which the wetlands mitigation work is being lumped with, will enlarge the road from 20th to 23rd Avenue. The 132nd Street plan is part of an overall project to alleviate traffic in the area that includes the long delayed Linden Place extension.

Linden Place is scheduled to be reconstructed by the end of the fall after years of setbacks.

Construction on the 132nd Street part of the project will begin in spring 2015 and is anticipated to be complete in 2018, the EDC said.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobi‌nson@‌cnglo‌cal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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