Last Thursday, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee issued a recommendation approving the site at 59-02 Borden Avenue. The facility is part of an as-of-right development of a Home Depot store, two other commercial retail buildings and 520 parking spots.
It will replace a former Coca-Cola warehouse and bottling facility.
The six-story, 135,000-square-foot storage building will be used by local contractors to store equipment and materials they need for their job, according to Joshua Rinesmith from Akerman LLP, who submitted the special permit application on behalf of Home Depot.
“This type of opportunity is something that is needed in the contracting industry,” Rinesmith said. “They’re not committed to a long-term lease. It reduces overhead for contractors.”
At the land use hearing at Borough Hall, Rinesmith said Home Depot will provide between 400 and 500 permanent and seasonal jobs with competitive wages and benefits. The self-storage facility, he admitted, will have much fewer permanent jobs.
Home Depot’s construction force is “entirely union,” he added.
Lee cited those benefits in her recommendation for approval. She also attached two conditions to her decision, including that the two retail buildings should be “heavily marketed” to industrial users looking for new space.
The other condition was a commitment to employ union labor, along with prevailing wages, to all workers for the construction of the self-storage facility.
Several speakers testified against the self-storage facility at the land use hearing. Robert Chory, owner of the Valente Yeast Company on Maurice Avenue in Maspeth, said the site is just half a mile from his company’s site.
He said manufacturing businesses like his are “constantly looking for real estate” in New York City to expand.
“We would love to buy the property or have them develop it for us,” Chory said. “It’s an ideal location. I want to keep the jobs and grow the business here.”
Chory, a board member of the city’s Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Council, noted that the self-storage facility is located within the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone (IBZ), which was created to stabilize and foster space for industrial businesses in the area.
In 2017, the acting borough president wrote in her recommendation, a text amendment was adopted by the city to create a special permit process for self-storage proposals in manufacturing spaces.
“We know the IBZ was designed to not build self-storage,” Chory said.
Quincy Ely-Cate, director of the Maspeth Industrial Business Association (MIBA), said at the hearing that while he does not oppose the as-of-right Home Depot, he believes self-storage facilities consume land, provide very few jobs and exacerbates the problem of industrial businesses not having enough affordable space.
“A vote of yes is a significant loss of stock to affordable industrial manufacturing land,” he said.
Last month, Community Board 2 also unanimously disapproved of the application because it “does not align with the economic objectives” of the Maspeth IBZ and would generate fewer industrial jobs.
The community board also recommended that the other two commercial retail buildings support manufacturing uses.
Despite some opposition, the proposal received five testimonies in support of the self-storage facility. Damian Smith, a local business owner with over 80 employees, said his firm would use the building to store large inventory.
“We lack storage space to meet the demands of our company,” he said. “It’s a challenge we deal with everyday.”
Jack Caliendo, who owns the Maspeth-based company Caliendo Contracting, added that having enough space for his materials is always a concern. He said adding a new self-storage facility would solve that issue.
“We need tools available,” Caliendo said. “We cannot store materials on site.”
In a statement, Councilman Robert Holden agreed that many small contractors will use the facility.
“This has been a very convenient arrangement in other locations and I don’t anticipate any issues in Maspeth,” he said. “I believe that this project, as a whole, will have a positive impact on business owners, consumers, employees and residents of Maspeth alike.”