Photo courtesy of the NYC Economic Development Corporation

The Flushing West project, which would have transformed an industrial area into housing and retail spaces, was suddenly stopped by Mayor Bill de Blasio, it was reported on Tuesday.

De Blasio originally supported the $350 million plan as part of his affordable housing agenda, but it appears that potential complications from the plan — and opposition from one local lawmaker — may have influenced its cancellation.

Councilman Peter Koo of Flushing sent a letter to the New York City Department of City Planning on Friday, voicing his objections to transforming 11 industrial blocks between Flushing Creek and the 7 train terminal into Flushing West. The new neighborhood would include retail stores, open space and affordable apartments.

“From day one, I’ve said that before we attempt to rezone this community, we need to have commitments to infrastructure, affordable housing, transit and traffic improvements,” Koo stated in Friday’s press release. “With so many infrastructure and planning needs, it has become clear that a rezoning of Flushing West would be a classic example of stuffing 10 pounds of potatoes into a 5-pound bag. We simply can’t afford to further overburden our community without first addressing serious sustainability and capacity concerns.”

Carl Weisbrod, director of the Department of City Planning, immediately addressed Koo’s concerns that Friday. “We will turn our attention and our priority to planning efforts to other neighborhoods,” Weisbrod told Crain’s New York Business, which first reported the story.

In March, QNS reported that Koo organized a town hall meeting with the Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance, advocating for affordable housing for local residents. Koo promised to vote against de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan if the Area Median Income (AMI) threshold was not reduced to 40 percent.

Koo detected several complications based on the Flushing area’s infrastructure, overflown sewer pipes, transportation and the nearby LaGuardia Airport’s rigid height restrictions, which would require federal involvement for any changes.

The mayor’s vision for 15 rezoned neighborhoods was introduced in spring 2014 as a part of his Housing New York plan. The city has already approved its first goal for redevelopment in Brooklyn’s East New York and plans similar reconstruction for other areas in New York City.

The Flushing West plan would have been one feature of de Blasio’s five-borough, 10-year plan to build and preserve 200,000 affordable apartments citywide.

Two major Flushing organizations expressed their disapproval over the plan’s rejection.

“The Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (FWPCLDC) has been working diligently for several years under the aegis of the Department of State and in conjunction with the Department of City Planning to create a workable and comprehensive plan to develop and renew the Flushing waterfront,” said Claire Shulman, president and CEO of FWPCLDC. “Although we are disappointed, the LDC will continue to fulfill its work for the New York State Department of State over the next 10 months to contribute towards the creation of a plan that complements the surrounding community, and addresses the need to comprehensively develop this underutilized brownfield area.”

The FWPCLDC received a $1.5 million brownfield opportunity area (BOA) grant in 2010. On Friday morning, the corporation had a meeting at Queens Crossing in Flushing, where discussions were held to arrange a meeting with Weisbrod to address the BOA.

“We are disappointed that the plug was pulled from the ambitious Flushing West rezoning, particularly because of how engaged our community was with shaping our future. We held several community visioning exercises and town hall meetings where residents and business owners learned about the city’s development process,” Simon Gerson, president of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said on Wednesday. “In that respect, this unfortunate decision shows that the city never really made an effort to understand who we are.”

On the other hand, Community Board 7, which serves the Flushing neighborhood, was satisfied with the mayor’s decision to abandon the proposal.

“I felt that this particular Flushing West site was being pushed a little bit too quickly and I felt that it would be detrimental to the Flushing community if they continued to pursue it. The combination of all of the negative ingredients were not being addressed properly and perhaps in the future, we can sit down and revisit this site,” said Joseph Sweeney, chairman of the CB 7 Land Use Committee for Flushing West.

Although the de Blasio administration has scrapped the current proposal to rezone Flushing West, Weisbrod indicated that the city may reconsider the idea in the future if some of the developmental issues are resolved.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz had no comment.


Join The Discussion

Related Stories
In aftermath of mayor’s defeat of Flushing West plan, calls for affordable Flushing housing remain
In aftermath of mayor’s defeat of Flushing West plan, calls for affordable Flushing housing remain
Residents call for truly affordable housing in ‘Flushing West’ rezoning plan
Residents call for truly affordable housing in ‘Flushing West’ rezoning plan

Skip to toolbar