Led by the Juniper Park Civic Association, the struggle to save the Elmhurst Gas Tanks site from commercial development, particularly a big box Home Depot store, was a fight to save our neighborhood. In the end it was a remarkable and stunning victory. A storybook ending where the good guys win, a victory for the people of the City of New York, a victory against overdevelopment and the perception that big money always wins out.
Never give up
Faced with overwhelming odds in the fight against Keyspan's plan to sell the 6-acre Elmhurst Gas Tanks property, we formed a task force with civic and business leaders from Maspeth and Middle Village. The message was that our community would not tolerate a Home Depot and other commercial overdevelopment that would destroy our quality of life bringing in hundreds of additional cars and trucks. Along with Tony Nunziato, Manny Caruana, Ed Kampermann and former Councilman Tom Ognibene, our strategy was to present a good argument and plan to stop this project and return this land to the community.
We were told by many people, including the experts, that this was an impossible fight to win. There were too many obstacles. First and foremost, Keyspan Energy, a multi-billion dollar utility giant that had grown in recent years into an international natural gas conglomerate. Then there was the Mattone Group, a well connected mega developer based in Queens County with a string of huge developments and several ties to Queens politicians. And last but certainly not least, The Home Depot, the well-financed home improvement mega store that has certainly been through these neighborhood battles before.
Unite the community and research!
First and foremost, we had to convince Keyspan that they were making a big mistake and that we would do everything in our power to oppose their decision to sell the property. Obviously Keyspan, as owners of the property, controlled the destiny of the land. However there would be strategies and a series of events that would eventually shift the momentum in favor of the community. Our elected officials needed to show city officials that the community would rally together and united against this plan. With research in hand we made our case, our elected officials heard us and the Mayor listened.
Outcome nothing short of...
Victories like this make all of the time spent on volunteering worthwhile and rewarding. To all of the members of the community who worked so hard on this effort... thank you! Your effort was monumental, your struggle frustrating at times, but the outcome of your efforts was nothing short of a miracle.
Miracle... Park...a fitting name.