As we discussed yesterday, the deal that was brokered on behalf of the local merchants to mitigate the potential negative impact of the Flushing Commons development, did nothing to reduce the size and scope of the project-leaving merchants to feel that the measures amount to little more than lipstick on a pig, Compounding the feeling, is the fact the council negotiators didn't involve any of the business owners in the negotiations.
As a result, the Flushing Coalition members are deciding what their next course of action might be. Crain's covers the story: "A few changes were implemented in the plan, including an increase in small business assistance and a cap on rates for parking, but the details of those plans were not officially released. While the changes were designed to mitigate the impact of Flushing Commons on the community and local merchants, not everyone has been won over. The Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development, the group of local businesses opposing the project, remain skeptical, according to Richard Lipsky, who represents the group. “What our next steps are is unclear,” said Mr. Lipsky, adding that local businesses are also concerned that the three-year construction phase will create chaos, and the project’s mass which will create gridlock. “We haven’t had a chance to evaluate it, but from initial talks dissatisfaction still remains,” he said."
Also at issue, is the nature of the assistance package-something of a mystery since none of those small business folks on the ground had any hand in its crafting. First order of business, it seems to us, is establishing some lines of communication with the impacted small store owners who have been avoided like the plague by the local council member. No shopkeeper has any degree of trust in Council member Koo's good faith-how could they if they weren't even granted the courtesy of even a perfunctory meeting?
And while Koo and his staff want to take credit for the assistance add-ons, an example perhaps of the free rider principle in operation, it was the work of others who did the heavy lifting: "We are pleased with the negotiations and that we were able to get more for small businesses and parking caps,” said James McClelland, chief of staff for Peter Koo, the area's city councilmember, who supports Flushing Commons but had expressed concerns over traffic and parking. Initially, Mr. Koo’s office said that the city Economic Development Corp. has set aside $2 million for small business assistance."
And if Koo is viewed with, charitably, great skepticism, then EDC is seen by the store owners as the Great Satan-if this agency is running the assistance show, the merchants will be looking at assistance that will benefit some sole sourced consultant more than any local shop owner. The $6 million dollars-amounting to less than $60 per month per business-needs to be administrated at least partially by a consortium of the business owners themselves. But the plan's negative features and impact remains as real today as they ever were before the cosmetics were introduced.
As we told the Politicker: "What our next steps are is unclear," said Mr. Lipsky, adding that local businesses are also concerned that the three-year construction phase will create chaos, and the project's mass which will create gridlock. "We haven't had a chance to evaluate it, but from initial talks dissatisfaction still remains," he said." The next step is up in the air, but the mood is certainly ugly.