CB7 committee tackles Flushing West proposal

By Madina Toure

Members of Community Board 7 voiced concerns last week about the city’s plan to develop Flushing West, with a debate about whether cranes involved in the project would potentially interfere with airspace.

The Flushing West plan would clean up and rezone 60 acres on the Flushing waterfront and establish 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 the land use committee’s March 29 meeting, held at Union Care Plaza Center in downtown Flushing, Warren Schreiber, chairman of CB7’s aviation committee, asked about the decision-making process involved when the Federal Aviation Administration determines whether to grant a project a determination of no hazard.

Chris Shoulders, a manager from the FAA’s obstruction evaluation group, said the agency issues its approval if it finds the height of the building will not interfere with the airspace.

“Organizations such as this (CB7) and permitting offices, those are the ones who give approval,” Shoulders said.

But members said there is the potential for cranes to go higher than the maximum allowed height, especially when developers build to the absolute limit.

“When you deal with law—and I deal with people on the day-to-day basis in the Fire Department — it’s either you can do it or you cannot do it,” CB7 Chairman Gene Kelty said.

Enrique Sanabria, senior airport manager at the Port Authority, said the agency is working on reforming the process but that it depends heavily on developers approaching the PA as the airport operator.

“What we would do is if a developer approached us is we would proactively evaluate the proposal and recommend specific heights not only for the building but also for temporary construction equipment,” Sanabria said.

John Young, director of City Planning’s Queens office, said the plan’s environmental impact statement is not done yet but the community engagement process will continue.

“We’re trying to do planning here, not just letting EIS (environmental impact statement) drive decision-making,” Young said.

Joe Sweeney, the land use committee’s chairman, said the board and the community’s concerns needed to be addressed.

“For this to come to the full board, we need answers,” Sweeney said.

Other topics discussed at the meeting included whether banks will issue loans to developers concerning the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which mandates affordable housing in newly rezoned areas, the brownfield program for the proposal’s area and school capacity.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) have asked Mayor Bill de Blasio and City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod to immediately withdraw the rezoning plan.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour[email protected]local.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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