BY THOMAS GRECH AND PETER TU
For 20 years there have been false starts and stops to activate the Flushing waterfront – an underutilized and vacant piece of land that sits stark and dilapidated in an otherwise vibrant neighborhood, waiting to be reborn. Enter the Special Flushing Waterfront District – a thoughtful and comprehensive plan from three successful developers with a deep-rooted history in Flushing, seeking to revitalize these 29 acres.
Their vision – several years in the making – is the representation of hard work and collaboration with city agencies and community stakeholders, including Community Board 7. It will result in $2 billion in private investment, create close to 3,000 jobs, and bring significant community benefits to Flushing, making it the type of project that will make Queens an even better place to live, work and play.
Over the last 30 years, Flushing has evolved into a true New York City destination largely because of the economic development spearheaded by our elected officials and dedicated community leaders who care deeply about our neighborhood. Downtown Flushing has become an iconic, bustling central business district and authentic, culinary destination that attracts merchants, workers and visitors from NYC and beyond.
Like many neighborhoods throughout New York City, small businesses are the lifeblood of the local economy, enhancing the character of the neighborhood and creating jobs and opportunity. In fact, Flushing has more small businesses than any Queens neighborhood – 9,000, or 17 percent of the borough-wide total, according to a 2018 State Comptroller’s report.
But right now, the neighborhood is suffering, as fears around the coronavirus (COVID-19) have had a profound impact on businesses. Local merchants have reported losing as much as 40 percent of their business since the epidemic began, and are forced with laying off staff, and cutting hours, making it harder for their employees to make ends meet.
The issues faced by businesses in the neighborhood highlight the need to support development that catalyzes small business. Now, more than ever, we need to unify and rally around what would be an immediate, tangible stimulus to the local economy. The unwavering spirit of Flushing is alive in the vision of the Special Flushing Waterfront District.
In addition to creating thousands of jobs, bringing billions in investment to the neighborhood and creating an estimated $28 million in annual property tax revenues, there are tangible community benefits as well. The project includes an extensive road network that will alleviate traffic congestion, a comprehensive environmental remediation plan, affordable housing and a publicly accessible waterfront with an extended shoreline and promenade. Again, these benefits are ALL privately – not publicly – funded and maintained by ownership.
The Special Flushing Waterfront District would allow Flushing, a community with a long, proud history of entrepreneurial spirit, to continue to thrive. Together, we have worked tirelessly towards the neighborhood’s transformation, and we do not want to go backwards. It’s time to listen to what the community wants. We can’t allow for another 20 years or more to go by where this waterfront remains a stagnant eyesore, sitting idle and polluted. The Special Flushing Waterfront District is a responsible development and more importantly, a legacy project for the working people who call Flushing home.
Peter Tu is president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association and Thomas Grech is president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.