Council members Jimmy Van Bramer and Elizabeth Crowley and Assemblywoman Marge Markey joined local residents at a protest last Friday to speak out against the MTA’s proposal to quickly move the Access-a-Ride Fleet to a vacant former industrial site on the east side of 49th Street between Galasso Place and 56th Road.
“I am outraged and livid that the City of New York would attempt to sneak a depot into Maspeth,” Van Bramer said. “It has been a deceitful lack of process for an administration that claims to be about transparency and good government. There has been nothing even remotely close to good government about this horrible, reckless and dangerous decision to move a depot into Maspeth.”
There are already two bus depots in Maspeth, and Van Bramer called it “a punch in the gut” to Maspeth residents who already have to deal with heavy truck traffic.
According to Van Bramer and representatives from the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (Comet), the city made no attempt to contact residents or local community boards about the proposed move.
“We get hundreds of trucks down Grand Avenue everyday,” said Roe Daraio, president of COMET. “We’re trying to get a park but the city doesn’t have money for that, but in the meantime they could try to find money to mitigate this site.”
The MTA has come under fire recently over its presence at 65 Commercial Street in Greenpoint. The space was promised as open space by the city as part of the 2005 rezoning, but six years later it is still being used by the transit authority. Now, the MTA has chosen Maspeth out of at least a half-dozen sites to relocate the vehicles.
They originally turned down the Maspeth site because it is currently being used as an active freight railroad. Recently, the city agreed to build a facility there, but a spokesman said that first the long-time industrial site would have to be tested for contamination before construction could begin.
However, Van Bramer noted on Friday that no environmental impact study was done on the site and that the MTA was in the final throws of moving to the site before the information was leaked to him last Monday.
“You’ve got to do an environmental impact study, they know [the site] is polluted,” he said. “It would probably take millions to clean it, they know that.”
“We’ve all worked together to alleviate the amount of trucks that are currently in Maspeth,” Crowley added, noting that respiratory problems among children and seniors in the neighborhood are brought on by buses and trucks that frequent the area.
Nine officials, including Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, Assembly members Catherine Nolan and Mike Miller and Congressman Anthony Weiner put together a letter to the city expressing their concerns.
Van Bramer said he does not begrudge Brooklyn having a new park, but he wishes that the City of New York and the Department of Parks and Recreation would pay more attention to Maspeth.
“I wish that they could commit resources to St. Saviors and to other green spaces that we could be expanding and improving upon in Queens,” he said.