Queens Chronicle: Diplomacy officially dead in ICCC dispute

October 24, 2014

In 2013, the state Inspector General’s Office used terms such as “disingenuous” when describing the process by which the Indian Cultural and Community Center obtained state land at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital campus.

On Tuesday, opponents of the proposed four-story apartment complex used terms including “fraudulent” and “lie” in discussing the ICCC’s acquisition of the property and its ongoing hearings before the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals.

The harshest words yet for the project came at a press conference at the spot where 82nd Street in Bellerose ends at an emergency access gate to the Creedmoor property, a gathering that included more than a dozen civic leaders and neighborhood residents.

“When I was first approached four years ago about a one-story cultural center, I was all for it,” Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose Civic Association, said. “Eventually, I asked to see some plans. I was told it was still in the developmental stage. Then I found out they had filed plans with the Department of Buildings six weeks earlier. That was the first of their lies.”

What allegedly had been proposed as a one-story community center, athletic fields and parking had become a pair of nine-story apartment towers, buildings that would sit about 35 feet from a neighborhood with two- and three-story single-family homes.

Following continuous and virulent community opposition and the scathing report from the state Inspector General’s Office in September 2013, the ICCC scaled back its request to two six-story buildings and most recently, a single four-story building that it has been presenting to the BSA as senior housing.

A representative of the ICCC was recording the press conference on video, but declined to speak to reporters, and the Chronicle was unable to reach the ICCC’s land use attorney for comment.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) called its application to the BSA fraudulent, and he and several civic leaders said the organization has consistently lied to the community the state and the city.

“In all my years of involvement with civics and government, I have never seen a group so consistently misrepresent their intentions and outright lie,” Avella said.

He said it would be “a travesty of justice” for the BSA, which is hosting another hearing on the project in Manhattan on Nov. 25, to approve anything other than the community center that was originally proposed.

Avella said the ICCC is calling the building a senior housing project, while allegedly promising apartments at the completed site to financial backers.

“That’s not the way senior housing works,” Avella said. “It’s done by lottery. ... This is a for-profit plan.”

Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, said Tuesday, as he said to the BSA last month, that the ICCC may well not have the financial capacity to finish the project.

“This organization, based on its tax filings, has zero net worth,” Friedrich said.

He added that the ICCC has no history of land development, construction or property management.

“The last thing we need in this community is a rusted hulk of a building that doesn’t have the financial backing to be completed,” Friedrich said. “It would degrade the community.”

Michael O’Keeffe, president of the Creedmoor Civic Association, also questioned the ICCC’s financial ability to complete the project. He also concurred with Frank Toner, president of the Rocky Hill Civic Association, who pointed out that the official master plan for the redevelopment of some sections of the Creedmoor property calls for low-rise buildings consistent with the surrounding neighborhoods.

“The building they are proposing is just too big for the neighborhood,” O’Keeffe said.

The ICCC’s next set of revisions is due to the BSA on or before Oct. 28.

Members of Community Board 13, which has flatly rejected all multi-floor proposals from the beginning, would have an opportunity to review the new submission to prepare its own recommendations prior to the Nov. 25 hearing.

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