Wednesday, July 28, 2010

UnCommon Flushing

The city council's zoning and franchises subcommittee, after some intense behind the scenes negotiations related to the plight of Flushing's small businesses, approved the Flushing Commons development today-but not before tripling the assistance package that is designed to mitigate the project's impact, particularly on the shops  at Union Street.

The assistance package-negotiated without the active participation of the merchants themselves-calls for $6 million to be allocated for the following mitigations: $2.2 million for marketing and advertising; $3 million for parking validation, and to keep a rate cap in place for five years (not two) post construction; $200,000 in general assistance to the local merchants; and a $500,000 revolving loan fund. How useful any of this will be in actually mitigating the project''s impact on existing Flushing business is not clear at this time since the details of the assistance package have yet to be revealed.

That being said, the overall size and scope of the development remains the same, and the traffic and parking impacts remain unaddressed in any meaningful way-and, as a consequence, the REDO coalition of community and civic groups are not too pleased. The Flushing Coalition, which mounted its campaign in the short span of two and a half months, will be evaluating the mitigations and deciding the next course of action in the coming days ahead-but there is a real concern about working with the local council member who so actively opposed their interests and refused to sit down with them at  any point in the process.

This unfortunate fact raises questions about the efficacy of the developing process that needs to be put in place to help the locals survive this development. Peter Koo needs to find a way to help build a bridge to Korean shop keepers who feel that he has abandoned their needs. He needs to do this as much for himself as for the merchants for whom Flushing Commons spells disaster.

But whatever transpires with Flushing Commons-the development that is poised to receive council approval tomorrow-the project underscores the depth of the mayor's anti-small business agenda; and if not for council members such as Mark Weprin, Leroy Comrie, and Margaret Chin, there wouldn't even have been the increase in assistance that was eventually negotiated. The fact remains, however, that Flushing Commons is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg-with Willets Point and an additional 20 million sq, ft. of development ready to demonstrate the complete hypocrisy of PlaNYC 2030.

With fraudulent environmental reviews from the full array of these projects assigning huge amounts of trips to the mass transit that is at or over capacity (in order to downplay street, road, and highway impacts), the Bloomberg chickens will continue to come home to roost long after the mayor thankfully leaves office-when he likely is comfortably ensconced in his Bermuda mansion. It is very New York in a very three card monte way.

These inconvenient truths highlight the need for the elected officials of Queens County to wake themselves from their business as usual slumber. If a concerted effort isn't launched against poorly planned over development, it is these elected officials that will be forced  to explain why they didn't act when the handwriting was on the wall-and it was written in easy to read block letters.


A belated and deserved shout out to Dan Halloran

In our haste to comment on the Flushing Commons negotiation-and to credit those who stepped up for the local merchants and residents-we neglected to mention the fact that Council member Halloran was engaged and vocal on behalf of the community; probably more than any other elected official. In his brief time at the council, Halloran has shown a real concern for the interests of both homeowners (read tax payers) and small businesses. It goes without saying that if Dan represented Flushing, the development would look very different than the one that passed the city council subcommittee to day