Two pols unite against Flushing West rezoning proposal

By Madina Toure

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) have joined forces to oppose the city’s plan to redevelop Flushing West.

The Flushing West plan seeks to clean up and rezone 60 acres on the Flushing waterfront and create a planned community with waterfront access, housing and commercial space.

The 32-acre study area runs from Prince Street on the east to Flushing Creek on the west, and from Roosevelt Avenue on the south to Northern Boulevard on the north.

At a news conference on the traffic island at the intersection of 37th Avenue and Prince Street last Friday, Kim and Avella said the neighborhood already has a hard time meeting the needs of its residents. The 7 train line, which frequently has service disruptions and congested trains, is an especially pressing problem, with people unable to stand on the platform.

“The 7 train is so overcrowded that you can’t get on a train,” Avella said.

Kim said his wife and Avella’s ride the 7 train every day, saying that he and Avella want to ensure that the city and the state work together in a comprehensive way to address the issue. Both wives have complained about packed trains and crowded platforms

He said that there has to be a full assessment of transportation options. “Instead of actually fixing the problem, we want to add more congestion to it,” he said.

The elected officials have introduced a bill that would require municipalities served by the MTA to conduct a study on the environmental effects of a comprehensive rezoning plan to determine whether mass transit could handle the ridership increase. They said the bill could affect the entire state if passed quickly enough.

In a Feb. 24 letter to Avella, City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod said Mayor Bill de Blasio asked him to respond to Avella’s Feb. 19 letter.

“We will continue to refine the plan based on comments we receive from you and other stakeholders,” Weisbrod wrote.

The lawmakers also said they were against the proposal because it bases the mandatory affordable housing that comes with the development on an Average Median Income that factors in wealthier suburbs and argued that the city has to address the pollution of Flushing Creek before it moves forward with the proposal.

“We all want to do affordable housing,” Avella said. “But we can’t place people in inappropriate places so the mayor can have precedent.”

Kim said the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process will begin in September and Avella said there is a possibility of legal action if the proposal proceeds in its current state.

A City Planning spokesman said the agency has not had a chance to review the bill but said an transit capacity assessment is already underway for Flushing West as part of the draft environmental impact statement.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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