By Cynthia Koons
The Economic Development Corp.’s plans for the municipal lot in downtown Flushing came under fire Wednesday from elected officials who said the proposal calls for nearly 300 fewer parking spots than exist today in the congested business center.
At a news conference in Councilman John Liu’s (D-Flushing) office, community leaders convened to respond to the EDC’s two-week-old request for proposals for the five-acre site, which currently has a two-story parking lot.
“The RFP currently has a parking requirement that is less than the number of spots on the municipal lot,” Liu said. “If anything, we need an expansion in parking.”
Liu said the municipal lot currently holds 1,100 cars at capacity. He is concerned about losing those spaces in light of the EDC’s plan, which reduces the minimum parking requirement to 825 spaces.
“There was never any sentiment on the part of the community that the municipal lot should be torn down, per say,” Liu said in an interview before the news conference. “People could accept the fact that the city wants to have more on the site, more than simply a parking lot. Our concern is simply we need to have the parking spaces.”
In the Cooper Carry study of downtown Flushing’s growth released last fall, plans for Municipal Lot 1 call for a mixed-use development, including open space, street-level retail and a residential community.
The city hired Cooper Carry, a consulting firm, to create a long-range development plan for Flushing. The plan has been under consideration for a year and a half.
The Cooper Carry study also specifies that the developer should build underground parking at the Municipal Lot 1 site to address the community’s dire need for spaces in crowded downtown Flushing.
“The diminution of parking spaces just is not acceptable,” state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said. “All you have to do is drive into Flushing on a Sunday and you’ll see a tremendous number of cars.”
In the study, consultants recommend the implementation of a parking strategy for the downtown area during the construction of Municipal Lot 1, which could shift commuters to Shea Stadium and maximize capacity of Municipal Lots 2, 3 and 4.
Permanently relocating long-term parking from Municipal Lot 1 to Shea Stadium is also a consideration, Liu said.
Zoning changes are another concern of the community leaders. The RFP allows for a zoning change that could maximize the build-out of the property to 1.5 million square feet, Community Board 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian said.
“The New York City EDC is trying to effect a zoning change,” Stavisky said. “It sets a precedent for changes to the zoning resolution.”
In a neighboring RFP negotiation, the EDC recently called for light recreation and industrial development at the site of the Flushing Airport. When a complex containing 180 wholesale businesses was unveiled two weeks ago, community leaders in College Point and Whitestone opposed the development.
Liu said Wednesday’s news conference was a way to pre-emptively let the city know how Flushing civic leaders felt about the municipal lot request for proposals. He said he and other politicians were consulted in the development of the Cooper Carry study but were not directly involved in the creation of the municipal lot RFP.
Stavisky said she was very much in favor of the redevelopment of Flushing — so long as it is done systematically.
“We are for progress,” she said. “We want it to be an intelligent plan for progress.”
Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.