2008-09-24 / Features

Astoria Residents Rally Against Fed Ex Truck Depot

BY AMY FISHER

Photos Amy Fisher Local residents gathered in front of a Federal Express/Kinko's store on Steinway Street on September 20 to protest a possible Fed Ex depot on the Astoria waterfront. Photos Amy Fisher Local residents gathered in front of a Federal Express/Kinko's store on Steinway Street on September 20 to protest a possible Fed Ex depot on the Astoria waterfront. People came with signs held high, chanting, "No Way, No Depot" to protest the construction of a new Federal Express depot on the Astoria waterfront on Saturday, September 20.

The Coalition for a Better Astoria held the protest in front of a local Fed Ex/Kinko's for anyone who wanted his or her voice to be heard. Many residents of Astoria were unhappy when they heard the news of the prospective Fed Ex depot. The area suffers from too much pollution as it is, they claim, without more being added to it.

Families came out with their children, holding signs saying "Give Our Kids A Place to Play." They would rather see the site turned into a large park for their children and themselves to enjoy.

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. was there supporting this cause. He is concerned and doesn't want Fed Ex to build this new facility. "This is a very important issue in this community," Vallone said. "Whenever anyone asks me what problems we have, I can't think of any, except this, except pollution and congestion."

City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. calls for rejection of the Federal Express depot as Astoria Ditmars Homeowners and Tenants Civic Association President Rudy Sarchese (wearing filtration mask) stands by. City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. calls for rejection of the Federal Express depot as Astoria Ditmars Homeowners and Tenants Civic Association President Rudy Sarchese (wearing filtration mask) stands by. These plans are not set in stone. The Public Safety Commission is the only agency that can stop Con Edison from selling the land to Fed Ex. The commission has not yet given permission to sell the property. Vallone told the people how important it is to write letters stating how much they don't want more pollution, but a park instead. "We don't need more trucks rumbling through residential neighborhoods," Vallone declared.

Asthma is prevalent in Queens and the residents don't want more trucks coming in and out of a facility causing more dirt and pollution in their neighborhoods.

A resident of Astoria, Maria Gavila, said she is displeased by the thought of building this new truck depot. "I raise children here, I work here, I have grandchildren here and I'm very upset," Gavila said. "It will bring 200 trucks here every single day. I just think there's a real abuse in this area of people's rights to have a certain amount of clean air and we're being dumped on by the entire city."

The president of the Queens Independent Living Center, Daniel Aliberti, said, "We're here about Fed Ex; I'm here to speak about disabilities. This area of Queens has the highest percentage of people with disabilities." The families already living in Astoria don't want the disability rate to rise and neither does Aliberti. "If all these trucks start coming through here and all this pollution…it's going to raise it [the percentage] even higher than we already have. I don't want to add to any more disabilities in this community or anywhere else," he said.

The secretary of the Coalition for Better Astoria, Eddie

Hernandez, wishes that the 21 acres of land could be used for a park instead. "It's a park waiting to be born," Hernandez said. "Nobody's going to give you a park, you have to take it."

The tract is under contract with Con Ed, so the residents of Queens would have to stop the contract. They also have to decide what to do with a park, if one were built. Hernandez showed a picture of the vacant land already on the site and noted it wouldn't take much work to turn it into a park.

Thomas Dooley, running for state senate in the 12th district, said he came as a father, not as a politician. "There's nowhere for the kids to play at all," Dooley said. He's been looking for any spot for a park to be built. "We need a park there and we need it to go down to the water, where people can actually realize that they are living on the tip of an island; they don't even know."

Local residents showed their disapproval with handmade signs. Jim Bacchi of Astoria, a high school biology teacher, greatly disagrees with the building of the Fed Ex facility. He held up his sign, which featured the Edvard Munch painting, "The Scream", while also wearing a gas mask.

Many Queens residents and politicians alike oppose what Fed Ex is said to be going to do with the 21 acres of land right near the water. They are getting the word out in the hope that the deal between Con Ed and Fed Ex will not go through and they will be able to have a large park instead. They say they just want cleaner air and a place for their children.

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