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THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano
THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

In December, we discussed the Department of City Planning’s study of western Flushing upzoning which was highlighted in November by Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod.

Crain’s has recently reported that city officials have hired a nonprofit run by former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman to develop “residential buildings, transportation, parks, and retail and commercial space for 60 acres of industrial property along the western border of Flushing.”

Our general consensus on the idea was a positive one. The city could benefit in several ways. It could increase foot traffic outside of Main Street in downtown Flushing, generate interest from national credit tenants and developers, increase neighboring property value, and most importantly relating to today’s topic of interest: remediating the lack of housing, including affordable housing, in the city.

The organization hired by the city is called the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp., and the city is working as a paid contractor for the organization. The new neighborhood envisioned is being called “Flushing West.”

This area encompasses about a dozen blocks along a polluted stretch of the Flushing River. It is bound by Northern Boulevard on the north side and the No. 7 subway train on the south side. It is currently home to several warehouses and businesses including U-Haul and Scrap King.

West Flushing has been on the cusp of change for a while. Shulman (of the nonprofit organization) has been working toward this goal since 2011 when it hired and given a $1.5 million grant to help revitalize the area, according to Crain’s. A key part of this arrangement was that they had to pay $800,000 of that grant to hire the city as a subcontractor. The nonprofit is acting as a necessary legal conduit and partner according to a planning official.

Naturally there are activists who pose negativity toward the plan. They argue that “nonprofits such as Shulman’s development corporation are legally barred from lobbying or trying to influence legislation – and since rezonings are laws, the organization has run afoul of this provision.” However, the nonprofit noted that all activities were vetted by the state and does not intend to influence legislation.

This is just the start of the planning process which could potentially open up the Flushing development market to more opportunity and expansion.

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Stephen R. Preuss is an executive director in the Capital Markets Group of Cushman & Wakefield, where he focuses on investment sales for various Queens neighborhoods. He has transacted in over $1 billion of investment and commercial real estate over his 15-year career. During his tenure, he has sold over 125 properties to date with an aggregate value of over $650 million.

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