Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Benefits Not Common to All

The Flushing Times continues with its excellent reporting on the fall out over the building of Flushing Commons-it seems that the community isn't feeling all of the benefits that the developer believes will accrue from this massive project in the middle of downtown Flushing: "Emotions are mixed on the final plans for the $850 million Flushing Commons mixed-use development project, which many community members say does not provide enough benefit for downtown Flushing. The project will be markedly different from the proposal former Deputy Mayor for Development Dan Doctoroff and former Councilman John Liu agreed on in a letter signed in 2005. Liu said in that agreement that he would not support any project with less than 2,000 parking spaces and with parking rates that are not capped at a reasonable rate into perpetuity. Both stipulations were not included in the final plan."

And, as we have noted before Community Board #7 is unhappy that it got stiffed when all of its seventeen stipulations were ignored when the city council approved the project: "Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty said he was unhappy with the number of outstanding concerns that were not addressed and its lack of benefit for Flushing residents. “We don’t think there were much concessions given to us. We talked about a movie theater, a school and none of that was ever addressed. There are still traffic concerns and parking concerns,” he said. “These things have to be addressed, and they have to give something back to the Flushing people.”

But the developer of the project surprisingly disagrees with Kelty: "Michael Myer, president of the project’s developer, TDC Development, disagreed, saying he thought the project will be a great benefit to the community. He pointed out that many doubted his company’s Queens Crossing project before it was built and that it has since been a success. “I think the right balance was struck. The city basically ponied up and enhanced the support for the merchants and, you know, we chipped in with making some parking available at Queens Crossing during construction,” he said. “It’s a huge win for the community and it’s going to be a huge catalyst for transformation.”

We agree with Myer-but don't be shocked. FC will transform Flushing; it will transform it into a gridlocked mess with local business taking it right on the chin. And as far as Queens Crossing is concerned, it is a legend in Myer's mind. When we went to visit Assembly member Grace Meng last month, we waited for almost 15 minutes trying to get on one of the two slowest elevators we have ever seen. Imagine a line out the door of an office building to get on an elevator! Now, transpose that vision to Flushing writ large.

The Flushing Times does manage to finally credit the lobbying effort by the local businesses-even though he throws the grandstanding Koo a bone as well for the work he let others do: "In the final run-up to the project’s approval by the Council, Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) and other legislators were able to secure some concessions from the city and the project’s developer, TDC Development.
What was originally proposed as a $2 million assistance program to help area businesses was tripled to $6 million in the face of vociferous lobbying on the part of local merchants, who believed they would not be able to make it through three years of work without help."

But the ball now moves to the borough board's court-and the disposition of this property should not be seen as a fait accompli. But given the limp stand of the local council member, it will be up to Gene Kelty and Board #7 to try to make the hard bargain for the community benefits that should have been Koo's agenda-rather than the shameless shilling that he substituted for real community leadership.