Dozens of Korean business owners even arrived on a charter bus to make sure they didn’t miss the meeting.
“Half of Union Street has closed down for people to come here and speak,” said Angelo Park, a restaurant owner and spokesperson for the Flushing-Union Street Small Business Association, “that’s how serious this is.”
Union Street business owners have openly opposed the proposed $850 million redevelopment of Municipal Lot 1 in downtown Flushing because they feel the projected 1,600 spots, though 500 more than currently exist, will be insufficient to avoid a crippling effect on the more than 300 businesses on Union Street once the site is fully utilized. The project includes plans for 760 residential units, 250,000 square feet of retail space, and 230,000 square feet of commercial space.
“If they come up with a solution that will not hurt our businesses, it’s something we can support,” said Park, “but they haven’t come up with anything yet. That’s why we say give us parking or give us death.”
Richard Lee requested on behalf of Asian Americans for Equality that the plan require 125 additional affordable housing units on top of the proposed 140.
Flushing Business Improvement District Chair James Gerson disclosed that he is working with a consultant to determine the economic impact the project will have on local businesses.
Members of Macedonia A.M.E. Church, which is located on Muni Lot 1 and stands to gain a 14-story building called “Macedonia Plaza” that will house the affordable living units under the current proposal, were present to lend their support to the project.
Deborah, a Flushing resident of 29 years and a parishioner, felt that it was important for Flushing Commons to go forward because it is a project that has the power to bring people together. She first moved to Flushing because she was drawn to its diversity, but she admitted that she has been feeling squeezed out for some time now.
"Flushing has become an Asian community and it feels very exclusionary," she said. "We should be able to live together collaboratively, neighborly, and that’s what I’d like to see from this project."
Paul Graziano, a spokesperson for the roughly 10,000-member community group REDO (The Coalition to Reconsider and Evaluate Development Opportunities at Municipal Parking Lot 1 in Downtown Flushing), questioned the method that the developer, TDC, uses to calculate the number of parking spaces it is required to provide; expressed concern that parking rates will be significantly higher than they are now; and argued that the project is too dense for the site.
“When the community board selected this developer, there were all these amenities," he added. "Those amenities have disappeared.”
The amenities included a movie theater and national chain bookstore, which Graziano said was promised in the original plan proposed while John Liu was still the councilman for Flushing.
He also brought up a little-known detail: Economic Development Corp is the actual applicant, not TDC.
“I hope City Planning can be objective, considering the developer is another city agency,” said Graziano.
CPC will deliberate through May and June before the project makes its way to the City Council, which will decide the fate of Flushing Commons in July.