Flushing United demands community engagement in plans for proposed transitional housing complex

Flushing United transitional hosing
Members of Flushing United call for transparency and community engagement for a proposed transitional housing project during a press conference on Monday, May 23. (Photo courtesy of Flushing United)

Flushing United, an organization of community and business leaders, is demanding the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS) hold a public meeting to discuss the planned development of a proposed transitional housing complex in College Point while advocating for more affordable housing. 

On Monday, May 24, more than 60 community and business leaders were gathered for a press conference at 33-68 Farrington St. in Flushing to discuss the project site at 39-03 College Point Blvd. Members of the organization said they’re still seeking answers about the development, which is spearheaded by Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE). 

“There’s been nothing public or transparent about any part of the land deal at 39-03 College Point Blvd. Any claims to the contrary is an outright lie and distortion of the truth,” said Jerry Lo, acting president of Flushing United. “The Flushing community deserves to be heard and listened to before any development of this size and scope is built. We look forward to hearing from DHS why they believe transitional and not permanent housing is best suited for Flushing.” 

AAFE in partnership with the Urban Resource Institute (URI) is planning to construct a 90-unit building that will offer on-site services to assist Asian families with children in need. The project is currently on pause as the organization is coordinating with city officials to address community concerns and provide more information about the development. 

In January, Flushing United had presented a petition of 50,000 signatures voicing concerns about the development during a press conference. 

According to Flushing United, while city agencies delivered a presentation about the proposed plan, residents of the neighborhood have not had the opportunity to offer their opinion. The organization said an open, public meeting would allow the community to provide their thoughts and have a real dialogue about the future of the site. 

“What took place on [Jan. 24] at the community board’s monthly meeting would only constitute a presentation for the proposed transitional housing project. Therefore, the community deserves a true public hearing and the opportunity to address all of their concerns,” said Betsy Mak of Community Board 7. 

To date, 62 organizations have voiced their support for Flushing United. 

Thomas Grech, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, who is supporting Flushing United, said, “More affordable housing is good for the community and economic future of Queens.” 

In response to Flushing United’s claims regarding the lack of transparency and public input on the project, AAFE said that throughout the first four months of 2022, URI and DHS participated in community meetings with Community Board 7 in January and a stakeholder meeting organized by Councilwoman Sandra Ung. A follow-up stakeholder session was held on April 30. 

According to AAFE, the city and the project partners have also responded in writing to elected officials and stakeholders, answering several rounds of additional questions. Smaller group and individual meetings have taken place involving a wide array of community and nonprofit leaders. 

While the project team will continue to engage with the Flushing community to share pertinent information and build productive working relationships, AAFE says it’s necessary to resume planning for construction at the project site. 

Following an extensive community engagement process, AAFE said the first transitional housing facility, Magnolia Gardens, is entering its next phase of development. 

“For almost a half-century, Asian Americans for Equality has been devoted to helping many of our city’s most vulnerable families achieve housing stability and economic security,” said Lydia Tom, AAFE board president. “We are steadfast in our commitment to this project, which will truly be an asset to the Flushing community, and we are looking forward to working with our partners at URI and the city for many years to come, ensuring that this transitional housing facility provides low-income immigrant families and other families in need the support they require to thrive.”

According to Jennifer Sun and Thomas Yu, co-executive directors of AAFE, language and cultural barriers prevent many vulnerable families in Flushing from accessing housing assistance and critical social services. 

“That’s why we were determined to utilize our site on 39th Avenue to create transitional housing for a resident population who are supported by staff reflecting the diversity of the local community and providing inclusive services, especially Asian language services and outreach programs,” Sun and Yu said in a statement. “We look forward to working with Flushing stakeholders in the months and years ahead to make sure our entire community can advance together.”

In terms of building affordable housing, AAFE said they explored that possibility and said the greatest need was clearly for deeply affordable housing at 30% of the area median income. However, due to zoning limitations and high development costs to create a small number of units, it wasn’t feasible, AAFE said. Additionally, AAFE said it was well aware from its experience working with formerly homeless families that many community members require short-term comprehensive social and career development resources, in addition to housing. 

Transitional housing provides a pathway to permanent affordable housing, enabling families to secure Section 8 vouchers and qualify for housing units specifically reserved for formerly homeless residents.

URI, which will be the service provider of Magnolia Gardens, said they look forward to bringing a “holistic, innovative approach and comprehensive services to the Flushing community and to the families they serve at the facility. 

“I am proud that URI is widely recognized for the social service expertise, deep relationships with the communities we serve, and excellence in program development and service delivery that we will bring to this new site,” said Nathaniel Fields, CEO of Urban Resource Institute. 

URI will form a Community Advisory Board (CAB) comprised of Flushing and CB 7 stakeholders — residents (renters and homeowners), small business owners, nonprofit service providers including AAFE and elected officials — to keep the Flushing community informed about the project’s operations, security measures and utilization by families with children. 

The group will also address any operational and safety impacts on the surrounding community. It will be convened two months before the facility opens with monthly meetings scheduled in the first year of operations and quarterly meetings in subsequent years.

The project is expected to break ground shortly after closing, now anticipated in the fall of 2022, with construction continuing for approximately 20 months.

More from Around New York