Flushing councilman eyes bookstore for parking lot

By Cynthia Koons

The Economic Development Corp. has issued its request for proposals for architects interested in developing the 1,100-space parking deck in busy downtown Flushing retail area.

“EDC was already encouraging people to presume there would be a zoning change,” Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said. “Companies should not assume there would be a zoning change. They should comply with local law.”

The lot's sale and development is the first step for the city to enact its grand redevelopment project for downtown Flushing. It comes after Cooper Carey, a consulting team, created a long-range plan for the expansion of Flushing from its current retail neighborhood down to the Flushing River waterfront.

He was joined in his office by state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone), Assemblyman Barry Grodenchik (D-Flushing), Community Board 7 Chairman Eugene Kelty and a fellow councilman, James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton), who is chairman of the City Council's EDC committee.

It was the second meeting of local officials about the development of the municipal lot. Last time representatives demanded that construction of the lot not come at the mercy of any of the parking spaces that already exist there. They also requested the city adhere to the zoning designation for the property, which calls for some community space, parking and retail.

Municipal Lot 1 houses 1,100 spaces, and is a hub of parking in the busy retail neighborhood of downtown Flushing.

“Today we're here to insist, to demand … our local community has to benefit from the sale of this land,” Liu said at the press conference at his office in downtown Flushing.

He, along with the others, requested a full-service bookstore at the site as well as the same number of existing parking spaces and a community youth center.

“This youth center is important because unfortunately we have seen incidents of violence among youth in the past year,” Liu said.

In February, a 16-year-old boy was charged with stabbing a killing a 15-year-old as well as stabbing a 17-year-old on Maple Avenue in downtown Flushing, according to police.

Stavisky said she believes a youth center would deter teenagers from committing such crimes.

“Kids who are engaged in activities are not going to have time to commit crimes,” she said. “We're laying out a blueprint for future developers.”

Grodenchik also encouraged developers to maintain the same amount of parking that already exists. He said several designers have already called his office to ask what the community is looking for.

“The parking lot as it exists now is a tremendous parking amenity,” he said.

Sanders said he was pleased to join Flushing community leaders to discuss the development of the downtown parcel of land.

“The main purpose of economic development is to develop communities,” he said. “If we have forgotten that and develop for development's sake, we are forgetting our mandate.”

In neighboring College Point, the EDC unveiled a proposal to build a 180-business complex on the site of the former Flushing Airport. Community opposition is mounting against the project, primarily targeted at the EDC for not choosing a proposal with the recreation space the residents requested.

Liu did not want to say there was a relationship between the Flushing Airport controversy and the stance he, Grodenchik and Stavisky have taken on the Municipal Lot 1 project. However, it was at the February Flushing Airport news conference that the Municipal Lot 1 RFP announcement was made by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Local officials were scheduled hold a public hearing on the Municipal Lot 1 proposal March 25 at the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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