Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Buried Benefits

As the NY Daily News continues to report, the site for the proposed Flushing Commons development may well sit atop an old cemetery-and the controversy could well delay a scheduled vote on the project: "A prominent Queens councilman has urged the city to fulfill its "obligation" by investigating Daily News reports that 19th century graves may still exist on a site slated for a controversial Flushing project. Leroy Comrie, chairman of the City Council's powerful land use committee, called on the city to ensure "gentle" treatment of any tombs at the plot set for Flushing Commons, a mix of housing and retail space. The proposal is expected to be voted on by the land use committee on July 28 and then by the full Council. But Comrie said too many question marks remain."

If so, that would be good news-particularly to the Union Street merchants who, if the project goes forward as is-would have their businesses buried when the three year construction period commences for this over developed project. But we did get a kick out of the Queens BP's statement about the possibility: "Later, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall echoed Comrie's calls for a careful check. "There should be reasonable measures to ensure there are not human remains on the construction site," Marshall read from prepared testimony. She lifted her head and continued off the cuff: "We treasure our people, both while they're alive and after they pass away."

You'll perhaps pardon the Flushing shop owners for feeling that the concerns are greater for those passed than they are for the living and breathing; although EDC couldn't really be bothered with either: "At Thursday's hearing, Comrie (D-Jamaica) pressed Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp., for details about new excavation plans. "No one has said to date what will be done," Comrie said. Pinsky defended the 1953 excavation as an "extensive investigation." But when Comrie asked how far down the hand-diggers went in 1953, Pinsky admitted, "I don't have that exact figure." The News asked the city last month for records of the excavation to determine its scope, but the city has not yet produced any. A spokeswoman for the city Law Department, which officially declared the cemetery nonexistent in 1954, said the agency is "still looking" for the report."

Meanwhile, back with the living, the Flushing Coalition for Responsible development is planning a town hall meeting and rally against the project scheduled for this weekend-with all of the area's elected officials-including the evanescent council member Peter Koo-slated to be invited. The Coalition hopes to breathe life into the opposition, and thus help to get the city council to scale down the over-sized development so it doesn't destroy the already shaky small business community of this unique neighborhood.