Flushing business leader calls for delay to city’s busway plan citing COVID outreach restrictions

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A Flushing business leader wants the city to hit the breaks on its controversial plan to create a car-free busway on Main Street.

Peter Tu, the president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, with its nearly 1,500 members, is calling on the Department of Transportation to postpone the Oct. 1 implementation of the 2020 Main Street Busway Plan for at least 30 days in order to convene formal meetings with community stakeholders including retail businesses, medical and dental practices, restaurants, hotels and other commercial businesses.

Tu’s organization retained retired judge Randall T. Eng who sent a letter on Sept. 25 to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg formally requesting that the agency allow more time for the concerns of the affected businesses to be fully heard, saying that due to the COVID-19 pandemic the agency’s public outreach was either curtailed or not completed.

Eng wrote that the expanded busway plan would stretch 0.6 miles from Sanford Avenue to Northern Boulevard and the outreach efforts were hampered by COVID restrictions as well as language barriers.

“In addition, the timing of the implementation of the proposed busway cannot be worse,” Eng wrote. “Like many other businesses in New York, the pandemic and the accompanying lockdown have taken a substantial toll on the Flushing businesses. They are still struggling to gain their footing and financial stability after the easing of the pandemic’s restrictions. Implementing this busway at this precarious time in the recovery will have a devastating effect on many of the businesses.”

A spokesman for the DOT said the agency has received the letter and did not offer further comment. Eng included several letters of support from elected officials as well as community and business leaders.

“Flushing has been hit extremely hard and we need to rally behind these businesses right now and not stifle their return to business,” state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky wrote. “I have personally seen it first-hand having visited Flushing during the shutdown and now in the reopening of Flushing.”

Councilman Peter Koo agreed writing that the COVID-19 pandemic had a crippling impact on all sectors of the community.

“As we work toward recovery, the city of New York must take preventative measures to protect those impacted by the worsening financial crisis, unemployment and ongoing pandemic,” Koo said. “Whether residents, businesses, or essential services, we need to make sure any large-scale infrastructure changes to our community are fully vetted and appropriate for all.”

Community Board 7 chairman Eugene T. Kelty, Jr. added support for the postponement.

“The roll-out of a busway plan on the heels of a pandemic which has affected New York the hardest is not only untimely but without adequate studies and planning,” Kelty wrote. “According to the mayor’s 2019 Action Plan, there should be stakeholder briefings, on-street outreach, public workshops and open houses, business survey and shopper surveys which were curtailed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Flushing businesses were locked down by executive order and is just beginning to re-open for business. To shut down the heart of downtown Flushing by implementing this busway will be just another blow to this Asian community.”

Queens Chamber of Commerce President Thomas J. Grech wrote that the DOT presented no data that the proposal of shutting down Main Street between Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard would speed up bus travel.

“The rerouting of the private cars off Main Street to College Point and Union Street will be displacing the congestion from Main Street to these other streets,” Grech wrote. “It will now cause congestion on the side streets which are narrow. I look forward to having meaningful discussions and coming up with a plan that will help the Flushing community.”

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