Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Flushing Deluge on the Way

We have been detailing the dangers of the ambitious plans to develop the Flushing/Willets Point area-pointing to the contradictions inherent in the simultaneous promotion of mega-developments, while also advancing plans for the reduction of carbon emissions and sustainability. To get a clear idea of the just how grandiose the plans for this area are, take a close look at this map-courtesy of Queensalive (an oxymoron?). Notice, that, along with the downtown Flushing plan that encompasses Flushing Commons-and, of course, the 10 million square feet of Willets Point development-there is an additional plan to remove the brownfield in the total rehabilitation and development of the Flushing waterfront.

All of which leads us to wonder; where are the planners? Does any of the geniuses involved in all of this-hello EDC!-have any idea of whether or not the infrastructure, both in roads and mass transit, can sustain this much new development? And keep in mind, as our own Brian Ketcham does, that the waterfront will contain an additional 6 or 7 million square feet of a mixed use project.

Put simply, Queens County is under a stealth assault-and the attack is being aided and abetted by those claiming to develop in the name of sustainability. Piece by piece-from Sky View Parc, to Willets Point, to Flushing Commons, and now on to the waterfront-development is being added without the ability to sustain it. That's because, it is all being done-in Johnny Cash Cadillac fashion-one piece at a time.

As we have pointed out in regards to Flushing Commons, the collusion of the monopolist consultant, AKRF, has allowed EDC to downplay the individual, but especially the overall, impacts of these projects. The most clever of the ruses, is to assign around half of the generated new traffic from the developments to mass transit. This accomplishes a couple of neat tricks. All of a sudden, a huge potential vehicle generation is disappeared so that the traffic impact is cleverly mitigated. Secondly, by assigning thousands of the newcomers to the trains and buses, EDC avoids any scrutiny-because there is no requirement under CEQR to actual analyze whether the mass transit systems in place can handle all of the excess ridership.

But Ketcham has done a meta-analysis of  the kind of cumulative impacts all of these projects will have on mass transit-and the picture is not a pretty one by any means. Here's his stark evaluation-minus the chart that is available on request:


This report estimates the number of bus and subway trips that could be generated by new development in and around Willets Point near downtown Flushing. It is based on new development that might be completed by 2017 reported in the Final Generic Environmental Impact Statement (FGEIS) for the Willets Point Development Plan, the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the Flushing Commons project and the Flushing LDC Waterfront Development Plan. Table 1 below summarizes the results. It shows subway trips could total more than 114,000 on weekdays and bus trips more than 81,000. Table 1 also reports the estimated auto and truck trips, nearly 172,000 that might be generated by more than 90 new projects identified in the environmental impact statements and other sources referenced above.

These estimates are based on data reported in the Willets Point FGEIS, the Flushing Commons FEIS, the College Point Police Academy FEIS, and the Institute of Transportation Engineers Trip Generation Manual. Land use types and project size for the proposed development along the Flushing River waterfront was estimated by Brian Ketcham Engineering, PC, based on materials published by the Flushing LDC.

The more than 90 new projects, most within a mile of Willets Point, total more than 31 million square feet and, if completed, will impose huge impacts on both road and transit capacity. The problem facing downtown Flushing, its neighbors and the Borough of Queens is that no comprehensive analysis has been undertaken to establish whether or not the roads and expressways surrounding downtown Flushing or the MTA bus and subway systems have the capacity to accommodate so great an impact.

Both the Willets Point and Flushing Commons EISs report each project will gridlock downtown Flushing for an area of about a mile and a half radius. Willets Point depends on access for up to half the traffic produced by this project (about 3,000 auto trips in the evening peak hour) on access to the Van Wyck Expressway. It has been established that the Van Wyck Expressway

The open question is, who will step up and represent the communities that are under siege? We have seen how elected officials have disregarded their fiduciary responsibilities with all of the developments-turning a blind eye-or, perhaps simply hoodwinked-to the dangers down the road. After all, the optics do look good, don't they? The future reality, however, not so much.