Friday, March 19, 2010

Something in Commons

There's a battle brewing right on periphery of the Willets Point development-and the fight over Flushing Commons will shed even more light on the perfidy of the city's Economic Development Corporation. As the NY Daily News reports: "As the community's chance to chime in on plans for a sprawling Flushing development comes to a close, locals remain miffed about the project's sudden resurrection and the lack of input they had in its planning. Flushing Commons - a complex of condos and stores set to be built atop the Union St. municipal parking lot - was certified by the city on Jan. 25 after being delayed for almost three years."

Apparently EDC did all of this in secret-and waited for the keen eyed John Liu, a project critic, to leave his council office before certifying the project for ULURP: "There's a lot of really bad feeling because this entire project was done in secret and it was held off until John Liu left office," said Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and president of the Historic Districts Council. In 2007, Liu, the local councilman at the time, was a vocal opponent when developers replaced the original plan, which included 2,000 parking spaces, with a 1,600-spot garage. He also helped secure a parking rate cap that could only be changed with city approval and input from the BID. In the plan unveiled in January, parking rates are limited for five years only and the parking space count remains 1,600."

The sheer massiveness of the project, however, is going to compound the traffic mess that will spill over from the proposed Willets Point development-and WPU traffic consultant Ketcham estimates that Flushing Commons will add around 2,000 more vehicle trips in the critical PM peak hours. The FC EIS has yet to find any real ways to mitigate its own generated traffic; and in combination with WP and the 50 or so additional developments planned in and around Flushing we will have reached the point where the green goals of PlaNYC 20130 can be seen only as satire.

This last point about the Flushing development is one that is made strongly by the folks at Streets Blog-who should be joining with WPU as well, since the traffic issues are similar: "What's particularly striking about EDC's math is that it's completely isolated from all other considerations. The strain on Flushing's streets, which are already clogged with congestion, wasn't a factor. The PlaNYC goal of reducing transportation emissions by 44 percent by 2030 wasn't a factor. Officials apparently never stopped to think about the potential housing, retail or community uses that could have been built instead of some of the 500,000 square feet given to vehicle storage."

And the blog goes on to point out that EDC is operating at cross purposes with the mayor's sustainability goals (taking the document a lot more seriously than either we or the mayor does): " In his 2007 speech announcing PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg said that his staff "realized that you can’t formulate a land use plan without thinking about transportation." All the relevant agencies were expected to collaborate with the shared goal of building a sustainable city. That includes EDC, which the original PlaNYC report gave direct authority over a dozen initiatives, from expanding ferry service to improving the electric grid. Unfortunately, at Flushing Commons, like so many other EDC projects, PlaNYC goals don't seem to have even entered the equation."

So EDC plows forward-operating in secrecy and telling tale tales when it's convenient to do so. It is time to rein in the cowboys over on William Street; and, at the same time, hold Mike Bloomberg (and his lackeys over at the Environmental Defense Fund and the League of Conservation Voters) to his sustainability goals. We'll give Queens Crap the last word: "Final conclusion? You guessed it right: a traffic nightmare in 3 years. Hey, but look on the bright side: TDC/Rock is installing bike racks! Thank you again, Mayor Bloomberg and your EDC, for selling off a public facility to further enrich a wealthy group of private developers at our expense."