After the City agreed to set aside $6 million for a small business assistance program, the Council approved the redevelopment of a 5.5- acre municipal parking lot. On July 29, 2010, the City Council approved two proposals related to the development of a large mixed-use project on a 5.5-acre municipal parking lot in downtown Flushing, Queens. The 1,101-space lot is bounded by 37th and 39th Avenues and Union and 138th Streets, and is also occupied by the Macedonia AME Church, which faces Union Street.
The 1.89 million sq.ft. development, known as Flushing Commons, is sponsored by the City’s Economic Development Corporation, Rockefeller Group Development Corporation, and TDC Development Corporation. Rockefeller and TDC will construct five buildings around the lot’s perimeter, create a 1.5-acre town square-style open space, and provide 620 market- rate apartments. The project will also include a new YMCA, commercial space, and a 1,600-space underground parking facility.
Under the second proposal, Macedonia AME Church will build a fourteen-story, 140-unit affordable housing project, known as Macedonia Plaza, on the northeast corner of the parking lot.
In order to provide adequate interim parking during the lot’s redevelopment, a total of 1,144 additional public spaces will be provided at three off-site locations. The nearby Flushing Mall will be replaced by a 647-space lot; a 309-space lot will be available between College Point Boulevard and the Flushing River; and Municipal Lot 2, just west of the project site, will be expanded to accommodate a total of 275 spaces.
Residents and business groups opposed to Flushing Commons expressed concerns about the cost and availability of public parking and the construction impacts on local businesses. Supporters cited the 2,600 construction jobs and 1,900 permanent jobs the project is estimated to create. Local Council Member Peter Koo, who owns a pharmacy across the street from the project site, and the Mayor’s office had committed to working with the community to create a small business assistance plan to mitigate construction impacts. 7 CityLand 90 (July 15, 2010).
Opponents reiterated their objections during a lengthy public hearing before the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee. Jim Gerson, the former chair of the Flushing Business Improvement District and founder of the Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development, said the City’s analysis of the project’s impact on local businesses was flawed because it underestimated the number of area businesses. Gerson claimed that there was already a shortage of affordable parking in the area and that the community would be “at the mercy of the developer,” who would control almost all the offstreet parking in the area if the project were approved.
Chair Mark Weprin closed the hearing without calling for a vote. When the Subcommittee reconvened, Weprin announced that the City had increased funding for the small business assistance program from $2 million to $6 million. The City secured $2.25 million for marketing and advertising support for businesses affected by construction, $3 million to extend a parking rate cap, $500,000 for loan guarantees for local businesses, and funding for additional signage directing customers to shops in the Union Street area. The City will select a third party through a formal RFP process to implement the program.
The Subcommittee approved both projects, and the Land Use Committee followed suit. The full Council approved Flushing Commons by a vote of 44-2-6, with Council Members Gail A. Brewer and Brad Lander voting no. Brewer also opposed the Macedonia Plaza project.
Lead Agency: Office of the Deputy Mayor
for Economic Development, FEIS
Comm. Bd.: QN 7, App’d, 37-0-1, 35-2-1
Boro. Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 11-0-2, 10-1-2
Council: App’d, 44-2-6, 45-1-6
Council: Flushing Commons; Macedonia Plaza (July 29, 2010).