Transit and safety issues came up again and again during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s three-hour town hall meeting in downtown Flushing on Tuesday night.
De Blasio and the heads of various city agencies made themselves available to the public at the Flushing International High School on Barclay Avenue. After an hour of remarks from local elected officials and the mayor, residents posed questions spanning a variety of topics in the remaining two hours.
Concerns about parking in the highly concentrated and developing neighborhood were voiced by small business owners and local business improvement representatives at different points throughout the evening. One local business owner said the neighborhood has lost over 1,200 affordable parking spaces after municipal lots were re-purposed and developed.
The city recently began an affordable housing project at Municipal Lot 3 at 133rd Street and 41st Avenue. The “One Flushing” project will bring an eight-story building with 232 affordable units (60 reserved for seniors) to the area. It is expected to be completed in 2019, according to Councilman Peter Koo.
The changes have “created significant hardship for small businesses and increased traffic congestion,” one concerned business owner said.
“Flushing’s small businesses need your help, too,” she said.
De Blasio said he and members of his administration “don’t want to see a city that encourages more and more car use.”
“We don’t think about how to add parking as a goal in our planning,” de Blasio said. “We think about how to add affordable housing. We think about how to add another pieces of infrastructure — mass transit, which obviously relieves a lot of the pressure in terms of parking.”
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg added that the city is looking to expand Select Bus Service (SBS) to certain lines that operate in Flushing. The proposal is part of the mayor’s “Bus Forward” plan.
“We’re gonna have to focus in the future on mass transit as the solution to handling the neighbor of people in this neighborhood,” Trottenberg said. “The roadway really can’t handle many more cars.”
The topic came up again when a resident asked what the city will do to improve clogged roadway conditions. He cited a commute earlier in the day between Brooklyn and Flushing, which took him two hours by car.
“We really believe that if we increase the amount of mass transit — which means Select Bus Service, the ferry service, light rail in-between Brooklyn and Queens, CitiBike — that’s gonna change things a lot,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said that the administration will also be starting “a very important experiment” in January to create new approaches to handling road congestion during rush hour. This will include re-timing traffic signals at key intersections and altering delivery vehicle regulations, the DOT commissioner added.
A resident later brought up the need for more traffic enforcement agents along the neighborhood’s congested roadways.
The mayor said he has received similar requests from Councilman Koo and Inspector Judith Harrison, commanding officer of the 109th Precinct.
“We will get you more traffic enforcement agents for downtown Flushing,” de Blasio said.