Shulman development group advances waterfront plan

Shulman development group advances waterfront plan
Rendering courtesy Flushing Willets Point LDC
By Joe Anuta

The local development corporation helmed by former Borough President Claire Shulman had a second public hearing last week on its vision to transform the Flushing waterfront east of College Point Boulevard into a coastal parkland and mixed-use development.

The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. received a $1.5 million grant from the state last year to explore a possible transformation of the area between Flushing Creek, Prince Street, Roosevelt Avenue and Northern Boulevard. Members of the corporation detailed their findings in last Thursday’s presentation.

“The Flushing waterfront is an area of grossly untapped potential,” said Nick Roberts, project manager for the LDC, who along with his colleagues projected that the 60-acre area mainly comprised of industrial or unused lots could eventually handle an additional 2 million square feet or 1,600 units of housing, 140,000 square feet of entertainment space and 95,000 square feet of retail, among other potential uses.

It is designed to complement another proposed development at Willets Point across the river. Shulman’s vision even includes a footbridge between the two.

The area is part of a program to redevelop brownfields under the auspices of the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In this case, the area is “underutilized,” which meant it was eligible for the grant money doled out to Shulman’s LDC last year.

The meeting, held at Flushing Town Hall on Northern Boulevard at Linden Place, was a public comment session about how best to organize the possible uses. Some community leaders in attendance were solidly behind the plan, including the head of the Queens Economic Development Corp.

“In concept, this is exactly what we need for the area,” said Jack Friedman, executive director of the corporation, who also suggested there be affordable housing.

But others were more skeptical.

The group called Willets Point United, which was formed to combat eminent domain abuse and has long dogged Shulman’s development efforts in the Willets Point and Flushing sections of the borough, released a cautionary statement about the seizure of property.

“It is the position of Willets Point United that the LDC’s brownfield project is actually a thinly disguised land grab,” the group said in a statement.

Its members said the LDC could use eminent domain to seize property in the area on the premise that it is underdeveloped, and then dole that property out to some of the big-name developers who support the corporation.

Shulman flatly denied her group would be seizing anyone’s property.

“Read my lips: There’s no eminent domain,” she said in an interview following the meeting. “I’m not in the business of taking people’s property.”

Instead, Shulman said the group will take community input on several different park configurations to allow Flushing residents access to the waterfront and another planned park along the river.

The LDC had its first public hearing last year and this time around will be taking public comment for approximately another month before starting to plan out a proposal to rezone the area.

If that zoning proposal is eventually approved by the City Planning Commission and the City Council, the LDC hopes to then solicit developers to buy some of the property and begin building according to their vision.

Willets Point United also lashed out at Shulman after she received the grant in the wake of an investigation by the state attorney general for lobbying city lawmakers without a license.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.