Cornell Tech Campus Will Bring Traffic and Pollution To Astoria, CB Says

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on November 21, 2012 2:46pm 

QUEENS — The construction of the Cornell NYC Tech campus on Roosevelt Island will bring traffic and pollution to Astoria, where the only bridge to the island is located, Astoria Community Board members said during its meeting Tuesday night.

The community board however has little say over the development plans because the project is located within the area of Manhattan Community Board 8.

“They [Manhattan Community Board] are getting a beautiful building and we are getting all the garbage,” said Vinicio Donato, Community Board 1's chairman.

Construction will start in 2014 and the campus will open its doors to the first students in 2017. It will take another 21 years to complete the campus, which will eventually host 2,500 students and sprawl over 2-million square feet.

Astoria Community Board members said they are worried that the university, both during its construction period and once it is operational, will bring too much traffic, pollution and noise to the neighborhood, especially in the area surrounding 36th Avenue where the bridge is located.

Cornell representatives who were present at the meeting, said an environmental impact study is currently being conducted and that the final statement will be ready in spring.

According to the preliminary findings, the traffic in the area would increase by 6 percent during and after construction, Cornell said.

“We are going to be looking at all different methods of delivering construction materials,” said Andrew Winters, director of capital projects and planning at Cornell NYC Tech. Bringing construction materials by barge is one of the transportation options being considered, he said.

One of the community board members, Tony Gigantiello, who is also president of CHOKE, or Coalition Helping Organize a Kleaner Air, said Astoria has already been struggling with air pollution and asthma and the community is worried that the university would make it even worse.

“This area is going to be impacted greatly by construction coming to our neighborhood,” he said. “If you do have construction materials coming through, you should keep it to Vernon Boulevard where the least amount of housing is, because 21st Street right now has a tremendous amount of traffic.”

Winters said that he was sympathetic with the concerns. “But I think there are benefits that they are not thinking about, like having people in this community involved with the tech world,” he said. He also said the construction process would add numerous jobs in the area.

The hope is that the campus’ proximity to the F train will prompt many university students and employees to use public transportation, Winters said.

But board members were skeptical.

“We’ve heard all these beautiful stories about the project many times,” said George Stamatiades, a board member. “If you are only expecting a six percent increase in the volume of traffic coming through our community, there won’t be that many people on that island.”

He also said he doubted that barging as a way of delivering construction materials will be used.

“When the engineers and finance people tell you what it’s gonna cost, you’re gonna say: ’Use the trucks.’”

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