The board voted 27-8 to approve the facility - which would pump oxygen into Newtown Creek in an effort to improve the health of the polluted waterway - with dissenting board members drafting a minority report to the borough president.
The issue of community access was again the main topic of conversation at Thursday’s hearing. DEP argues that slow pedestrian traffic in the area and costs associated with maintaining and securing the site make public access untenable at this time, although they have said they will consider public use should neighboring sites allow it in the future.
CB5 members have said that the waterfront site, located on 47th Street in Maspeth, could be used for a multitude of community purposes, an argument that emerged from the abstract last week when Middle Village’s Blau Weiss Gottschee Soccer Club began voicing interest in taking over the site as a home field.
“One of the biggest problems we face is lack of facilities,” said Paul McGlynn, technical director of coaching at the club. “A lot of kids want to play soccer now, but unfortunately we have to turn a lot of them away because we don’t have the space. Something like this would be ideal for us.”
Mike LoCascio, a CB5 member and athletic director at Maspeth's St. Stan’s, said he also saw a distinct need for a soccer field within the community.
“We don’t offer soccer because we don’t have the fields,” he said. “This piece of property is a rare gem in our neighborhood, and what we’re asking the DEP to do is give the community access so kids have the chance to grown and learn.”
He said he had spoken with the parish director of St. Stan’s, who said the church would offer to maintain the field.
While DEP officials said they were willing to look into other plots of land under their purview for use as potential recreation areas, they remained hesitant on Thursday about allowing public access to the site in question.
“We have concerns about maintenance and security that I think the borough president shares,” said Ibrahim Adul-Matin, director of DEP's Community Affairs, after the hearing. “The ground is not level, it’s not suitable.”
The borough president said that she was generally in favor of having the site be utilized as a park.
“From the perspective of this office, it would be nice to have a soccer field, and it takes care of the security issues [DEP] is concerned with,” she said. “What concerns me a little bit is I would like this to be open to the public. It can’t just be for one soccer league. I’d have to clarify all that.”
She said she was open to discussing the plans with any organizations interested in using the land as a recreation site, although no one had yet to approach her office directly.
As part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), the borough president has 30 days to review the plan and make a recommendation to the City Planning Commission. After that, the project goes to the City Council for a binding vote.