By Gina Martinez
Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Flushing last week and met with the unofficial “Mayor of Flushing,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who hosted a town hall for residents to voice their biggest concerns in their neighborhoods. Congestion, quality of life and affordable housing were frequently mentioned issues.
The mayor announced that downtown Flushing would get collections twice a day to address overflowing litter baskets in the area.
“Everybody cares about quality of life and it’s really obnoxious when you see a litter basket and you’re happy there’s a litter basket, but if it’s overflowing, it defeats the whole purpose,” de Blasio said. “That means it needs to be picked up more often, so we will be investing to increase basket collection in downtown Flushing from once a day to twice a day.”
Flushing has the fourth largest business district in the city.
One small business owner said that downtown Flushing has lost 1,200 affordable parking spaces due to development of Municipal lots 1 and 3. She said this has created significant hardship for small businesses and increased traffic congestion.
She asked for “balanced development” that will take into account the needs of small businesses, which she called the “economic engine of community”
De Blasio said affordable housing and public transportation were the city’s main priority and that despite the loss of parking, in the end more people living in the area will help small businesses.
“We believe there is an affordable housing crisis in this city,” he said. “So that is our No. 1 priority. If you don’t have affordable housing, everything else becomes moot. If we keep increasing the amount of parking, we keep increasing the number of cars that come into the area and we actually exacerbate congestion.”
The mayor said he would argue that given that amount of growth and new people living in the immediate area, more affordable housing and mass transit would create a bigger customer base for small businesses. He also said when the city invests in mass transit, it relieves a lot of the pressure in terms of parking,
“We don’t want to see a city that encourages more and more car use,” he said. “We think that would actually be very dangerous for a city that is growing to 9 million people.”
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trotenburg agreed. She said the DOT conducted a survey of local businesses in Flushing and found that 83 percent of their customer base were from people either walking or using mass transit.
“We made the decision those were areas we really needed to focus on,” she said. “We’re going to have to focus on mass transit as the solution. The roadway can’t really handle many more cars.”
To alleviate congestion the mayor announced Downtown Flushing would receive more traffic enforcement agents and that the Q44 Select Bus Service route that runs from Flushing to Jamaica would get $10 million in funding for improvements.
Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart