City Planning Commission approves Special Flushing Waterfront District Proposal

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Rendering by Hill West Architects

The City Planning Commission (CPC) on Wednesday, Nov. 4, voted in favor of approving the highly controversial Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD) proposal that will now move forward to the City Council for a vote.

The City Planning Commission’s 11-2 vote is a milestone for the development, which is steadily gaining momentum after a halted land-use process.

Marisa Lago, chair of the City Planning Commission, voted in favor of the project saying, “the application is an important step forward for Flushing.”

The three developers behind the Special Flushing Waterfront Development include F&T Group, United Construction & Development Group, and Young Nian Group, known collectively as FWRA, LLC.

Their proposal seeks to revitalize 29 acres of inactive and underutilized land that the developers say will provide substantial public benefits such as a privately funded and maintained road network and a 160,000-square-foot waterfront promenade along Flushing Creek that will both be publicly accessible.

The plan also includes 1,725 residential units, including affordable housing, 879 hotel keys, office and community facilities, retail space and parking spaces to help alleviate traffic along College Point Boulevard.

In response to the CPC’s vote, the developers said they’re pleased that the City Planning Commission has voted to move the application forward.

“With 3,000+ permanent jobs, a new traffic-alleviating public road network, publicly accessible waterfront with public amenities, and $164+ million in projected annual tax revenue among many other benefits, SFWD will bring Queens a step closer to the future our communities deserve,” the developers said.

The CPC’s vote marks another step in the right direction, the developers said.

“City Planning rightly sees that the SWFD is not a rezoning, but an essential next step for Queens at large towards recovery. Our vocal community submitted more than 300 letters supporting the project, showing that our vision resonates with those we are working to serve,” the developers said. “Without question, the months since COVID-19 have been among the most trying times our city has ever seen. There is no better time to give Flushing and New York City this exciting new chapter.”

Meanwhile, opponents of the proposal have said that the rezoning of the waterfront will exponentially increase the process of gentrification and displacement.

The MinKwon Center for Community Action along with the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Chhaya CDC, had filed a lawsuit against the Department of City Planning and the City Planning Commission, arguing that an environmental review must be conducted for the development proposal.

Local organizations such as the Flushing Anti-Displacement Alliance, The MinKwon Center and the Flushing Workers Center took to social media describing the CPC’S vote as “shameful” while criticizing the mayor and Councilman Peter Koo.

Koo’s approval will likely be crucial to securing support from the Council, since members traditionally vote according to the local member’s wishes on land-use matters.

The City Council hosted a virtual Zoom hearing on Monday, Nov. 9, during which Koo spoke in  favor of the project. 

“I believe the proposal has many merits,” Koo said during the hearing. “There is an MIH component, workforce development, double the open space and opportunities to engage our community in environmental education. At long last, our community could have an accessible waterfront.”

“I also believe this proposal certainly has its share of criticisms,” Koo added. 

Among those concerns, Koo said, are “displacement and the impact of this project on the surrounding community and environment.”

“At the end of the day, whatever is ultimately built here will need to enhance the downtown Flushing community and open up our currently inaccessible waterfront as much as is realistically possible. Our community has been cut off from its waterfront for far too long,” Koo said. 

The developers are thrilled with the amount of support that was offered  for the project.

“More than 100 community members exercised their right to speak about the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD) at Monday’s City Council hearing. Without question, more than 75% of speakers were in favor of our project and its many merits,” the developers said. “The Council also received more than 330 letters of support for the District from Flushing residents and business owners in advance of the hearing. This is an outstanding outpouring of support from our community for this project. It’s clear the people of Flushing want to move forward, and they believe strongly enough to be heard.”

Additional reporting by Zach Gewelb.

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