The certification of the Flushing Commons development project marked the official beginning of a public review process that will feature significant amounts of dialogue, debate and input from our community. As Flushing’s Councilman, I have the responsibility of working to ensure that everyone will be able to voice their concerns, have their opinions respected and debated openly.
During these difficult economic times, our top priorities should be putting people to work and stimulating our struggling economy. Therefore, after reviewing the details of the project and listening to the public discourse, I must base my decision on what I believe is in the best interest of the Flushing community. And it is my opinion that the Flushing Commons Project has much to offer in terms of public amenities and long-term economic growth.
This $800 million, privately financed community renewal project will create a truly new and exciting urban center in Downtown Flushing. It will feature a 1.5-acre public outdoor open space large enough to support community sponsored cultural events and performances (and which will be larger than Rockefeller Center), a new state-of-the-art YMCA for our community’s families, an additional 36,000 square feet for community use, residential housing, and local and national retail space. This will become an attraction in Flushing that will be considered the "Crown Jewel" of not only our downtown area, but the entire borough of Queens.
Furthermore, during these fiscally challenging times, with so many Flushing residents out of work and struggling to make ends meet, this project will create 1,900 permanent jobs and 2,600 construction jobs. Most importantly, many of these needed jobs will be for local residents. A comprehensive strategy will be created to identify local businesses and residents to work on the project during and after construction. It is extremely beneficial to have a local developer engaged in the project who will focus on hiring local workers.
The City has promised to provide assistance to small businesses that will be impacted by the construction of the Flushing Commons project. This is a component of the community benefits package that is absolutely essential to my support. I will not allow this project to move forward with my support if we cannot protect the small business owners who will be affected, and I will be working closely with EDC to make certain those resources are provided.
In the end, I recognize that a project of this magnitude will have shortcomings along with benefits, and that issues will continue to need to be addressed.
For example, residents have expressed traffic as a major concern and I agree. I recently invited Commissioner Maura McCarthy of the Queens Department of Transportation to Flushing and asked her to present the DOT’s long-term solutions to our traffic problems. I made it clear that there is no more time for studies. We need and deserve real inventive solutions to our traffic problems.
The Department of Transportation has put forth a plan that will be implemented on a trial basis in July and I eagerly await the results of the instituted traffic plan. Commissioner McCarthy has committed to my office and the community that if flaws in the plan are discovered or suggestions for improvement are presented, the plan can be modified to address traffic issues.
True leadership often means making difficult decisions for the good of the people. In the end I am charged with the responsibility as your Council Member to make sure that the best interests of Flushing are met and that we balance our long term needs against any potential short term pains. My staff and I have attended dozens of meetings on these critically important issues already, and during this review process I will continue to fight for adequate parking, traffic remediation, the needs of local merchants and for desperately needed capital improvements in Flushing.
In closing, I would like to state that given the community benefits package, the strong economic stimulation to our local economy, protection of our local businesses and the creation of jobs during the most difficult time since the Great Depression, I find that I must support this project for the betterment of our community. Therefore, I hope that all the members of our community join me in supporting the Flushing Commons project and work with me to resolve issues as we move forward.