City unveils eminent domain plans for downtown Jamaica: Astoria NY Times Ledger, 2/22/07

By Craig Giammona

The city released specific details Wednesday night of its plans to redevelop the area around the AirTrain terminal in downtown Jamaica, and residents reacted with strong consternation when they learned of a proposal that calls for the use of eminent domain.

Speaking before the largest crowd at a Community Board 12 meeting in several months, officials from the city's Economic Development Corporation, or EDC, described plans to widen Archer Avenue and improve traffic flow around the AirTrain terminal and Long Island Railroad station.

The plans involve extending Atlantic Avenue and turning 94th and 95th Avenues into a pair of one-way streets with an eye toward spurring "transit-oriented development." The plan would also improve traffic flow and make the area safer for pedestrians, city officials said.

It has been known for some time that the city planned use eminent domain to push the plan forward, but Wednesday specific details of the proposal were released and building owners whose properties are at risk spoke out strongly against the plan.

"I think it's outrageous the money they are talking about spending for people who ride the LIRR," said Carol Radin, whose family has owned a Sutphin Boulevard building for 50 years.

Radin runs an insurance office in the building and there are three apartments with 11 tenants upstairs. City officials used the term "acquisition" Wednesday, when referring to efforts to acquire the buildings and property necessary for the project. However, if the owners of these buildings do not consent to sell their property, the city will use eminent domain, city officials said.

Many residents expressed concerns Wednesday that the plan would create a downtown Jamaica that would be unaffordable for many longtime residents. There were also questions about whether or not local labor would be used during construction.

The AirTrain area redevelopment, known as the "Sutphin Boulevard Plaza" project, is part of a massive rezoning of downtown Jamaica that is currently under public review.

CB 12 has until April 16 to issue a recommendation on the Sutphin Boulevard project and the overall rezoning plan.

Astoria NY Times Ledger: http://www.timesledger.com