By Gina Martinez
State Sen, Tony Avella (D-Bayside) was the special guest at College Point Taxpayers Association’s February meeting. Avella, who is running for mayor this year, spoke with College Point residents about several issues including the much delayed seawall, bioswales and over-development.
Avella addressed the crumbling seawall and waterfront path at MacNeil Park. The seawall repair project has been halted for years despite the city Parks Department having the funds. Parks Department explained there were issues with contractors at an October meeting but said the construction will begin in fall 2017.
“The seawall is the perfect example of how College Point is always last on the list to get anything,” he said. “The Department of Parks and Recreation is the worst agency when it comes to construction, absolutely terrible. I don’t think they know how to deal with anything and that’s why project after project takes forever, I want to take that authority away from them and give it to the Department of construction that whole agency is filled with engineers, that’s their job to do construction, that’s why DEP projects and DOT projects go through that agency. So hopefully this latest commitment will actually come to pass. We’ll have to wait and see with bated breath.”
Avella then talked to College Point residents about the bioswales, a city program he has taken issue with in the last couple of months. Bioswales are green infrastructure installations cut into the pavement to absorb rainwater and remove some of the burden from the sewer system. The DEP said the ultimate goal of the bioswale project is to clean up waterways, including Flushing Creek and Flushing Bay. Avella said the program doesn’t address the bigger issue and that residents should have a choice to opt-out if they don’t want a bioswale installed in front of their homes.
“This is another brilliant project by the mayor and the Dept. of Environmental Protection,” Avella said. “The city has been in violation of state and city regulations for decades about dumping stormwater and sewer water into the bay in a river whenever there’s a heavy rainfall. Instead of building the proper sewers and treatment plans the city has come up with this green infrastructure proposal that sounds nice, less water goes into the sewer and more goes into the ground. It sounds nice, but they’re putting it in front of your home whether you like it or not. The city is refusing to grant the homeowner the right to opt out and you may have seen it in Whitestone and Bayside. It hasn’t happened much here but it will.”
Finally an angry resident complained about over-development in her area. She asked what could be done to stop it.
“My daughter is working, but she still can’t afford to buy a condo or co-op or rent in College Point or Queens in general,” she said. “My question to you, how can we get the DOB to stop giving permits to builders to build five- , six-family homes in a town like College Point that is not so big? When is this going to stop because this town is not built for that many people. The streets are not big enough.”
Avella said if he elected mayor, he would slow down development in northeast Queens.
“The real estate industry has controlled the agenda in this city for decades,” he said. “Until we change the political will at City Hall it’s not going to stop. When I was in the City Council, I got a lot of College Point rezoned, but they didn’t go as far as I wanted to — they only did so much. College Point can’t handle any more development. If I’m the mayor, I’m putting a freeze. I’m going to say in certain neighborhoods that’s it.”
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart