CB5 votes in favor of Newtown aeration facility
by Holly Bieler
Mar 18, 2015 | 5177 views | 0 0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Community Board 5 voted in favor of a proposed aeration facility at Newton Creek during last Wednesday’s board meeting, capping off one step in a years-long project that has been the subject of community-wide debate.

The proposal hits Borough President Melinda Katz’s desk next, on which she will hold a hearing on Thursday. She has 30 days to make a recommendation.

The proposed facility, which will pump oxygen into the creek in an effort to meet state-mandated levels of dissolved oxygen and environmental standards, will be located at 47th Street in Maspeth, and has garnered a variety of criticisms since its inception, most recently over the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) failure to include community access to the site.

DEP has said it will consider allowing public access to the site if neighboring areas along the waterfront begin doing so. The issue of community access was raised during the board’s final vote, with the opposing members deciding to issue a minority report stating their continued desire for community access on the site.

“We’re in favor of the aeration facility, but oppose the fact that public land use is not included,” said District Manager Gary Giordano last week.

DEP has cited a number of reasons for not providing access to the site, saying the area is currently removed from pedestrian traffic and the cost of maintaining and insuring an open site would be too great. The Parks Department declined to take over the site, citing similar concerns.

However a potential new development seemed to emerge in the fight over public access before Wednesday’s vote, when board member Kathy Masi said she had been in contact with Middle Village’s Blau Weiss Gottschee Soccer Club, who she said had expressed interest in developing and maintaining the area as a soccer field.

Although the idea emerged too late for serious consideration during the community board review, Masi said she hoped the plan’s potential would be reviewed as the project progressed to the Borough President’s office.

“I don’t think we should miss an opportunity to have park space for the community because we’re pressed for time,” she said.

The youth coordinator for the team, Timon Kalpaxis, said on Monday he was extremely interested in taking over the field, although he stressed the club had just been made aware of the space.

“We always have an ear to the ground for potential space,” he said. “[Lack of space] is an ongoing issue for my club, and sports programs throughout the community. I have to turn people away. When I heard about this I was like 'of course, are you kidding me?' We’re in.”

He said he first needed to ascertain if the property might even be available to the club, which wasn’t immediately clear as of Monday. Repeated requests for comment to DEP on the project’s potential went unanswered.

Kalpaxis said that although he couldn’t say with certainty if his club could raise enough money to develop the site, he thought the community was at least owed the chance to find out, and that a representative of the club would be attending the hearing on Thursday to make their case.

“I know the attempt is feasible,” he said. “I don’t know if it's for sure, but when we put kids on the field we don’t say go out and try not to lose, we say go out and try to win. If you say [the site] is available, I’ll do my very best to try to make it work.”

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