By Connor Adams Sheets
The $800 million Flushing Commons development project has cleared its final bureaucratic hurdle after nearly a decade of planning.
The Queens Borough Board voted Monday evening to approve the city’s plans to sell the downtown Flushing land where the project is slated to be built to its developer, TDC Development.
The vote was unanimous but came with a healthy does of chastising by City Council members and Eugene Kelty, chairman of Community Board 7, which did extensive work to address community concerns regarding the project.
“The Community Board has tried to work hard to make sure the project was modified as best it could be … The EDC needs to follow through with the letters, the community needs to be satisfied and the EDC needs to continue to work with [Councilman] Peter Koo [R-Flushing],” Council Land Use Committee Chairman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said.
Kelty said at CB 7’s Sept. 13 meeting that he would only vote to support the project Monday if the city, the developer and other groups drafted letters indicating that they would address remaining concerns CB 7 had about the proposal.
In the end, Kelty said he nearly voted no for the project because of these issues but that he and his other executive board members decided that it was best to vote in favor since most concerns had been addressed.
But he was sure to make it clear CB 7 was upset and that it wanted conversations to continue with, and assurances to be made by, several parties — including the developer and the city.
“This should’ve been a ‘no’ vote, but we voted ‘yes’ because I felt there was enough leeway in there that they’re going to work with us and we have the full support of the Council members and the borough president [Helen Marshall],” he said after the meeting. “You can’t really ask for more than that.”
Some of those letters were submitted in time, Kelty said: TDC wrote that it will work to address long-term parking and English signage issues, and the city Economic Development Corp. agreed to speak with CB 7 about the request for proposals for Municipal Lot 2.
But Kelty fumed at city representatives before he cast his final Borough Board vote, saying he was furious that the EDC did not provide a letter addressing what happens to Flushing Commons if it loses financing or “goes belly-up.” He also expressed displeasure that the EDC and deputy mayor’s office failed to attend a number of key meetings regarding the project, including the Sept. 13 CB 7 hearing.
“I’m very insulted by this. I’m very insulted by the deputy mayor’s office and I’m very insulted by the way the EDC handled this,” he said, adding succinctly after the meeting, “I want the letters and I want the EDC where they’re supposed to be.”
Carolee Fink, the EDC’s project manager for Flushing Commons, apologized to Kelty after the meeting and told him the agency would move to quickly fulfill his request.
Kelty said he is also concerned because the 109th Precinct and Queens Boro North have not provided letters saying that they will not use metered parking spots for their police vehicles.
In the end, the recording of the vote came as a relief to many attendees, as it signaled the end of an arduous, extensive period of deliberation over Flushing Commons and the 140-unit affordable housing complex, Macedonia Plaza, which will be built next to it. Flushing Commons will replace Municipal Lot 1 between 37th and 39th avenues between 138th and Union streets.
“We have spent so much time on this project and we have addressed so many concerns, so I’m voting ‘aye,’” said Marshall, echoing the sentiments of many in attendance Monday night.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.