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Flushing BID leaders leave for other pursuits

The leadership of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District, or Flushing BID, has seen two of its most powerful positions vacated in the past two weeks.

The group, which represents the interests of business leaders in the core of downtown Flushing, saw Jim Gerson, its founding chairman, step down last Thursday, 14 days after its founding executive director, Mabel Law, made the decision to take the same route, bowing out at the BID’s annual meeting.

Law said last week she has not decided what she will do now that she has resigned, but although she has “a few leads” she does not intend to work for her former boss, city Comptroller John Liu, despite rumors to the contrary.

She also said that “anything’s possible, just nothing’s happening right now,” when asked if she has plans to run for elected office in Flushing.

Sources familiar with politics in Flushing, however, said that she will run in this election for Democratic district leader in Part B of Assembly District 22, against incumbent Julia Harrison, a former councilwoman.

Liu, who is keeping a hand in many Flushing political negotiations, the sources said, even though he longer represents the neighborhood as its city councilman, has included Law on his current planned slate of suggested Democratic district leader candidates. At least one more slate of candidates prepared by other political insiders with Harrison as the favored Part B Democratic district leader would compete with Liu’s, the sources said.

Gerson, who will still serve as a board member but will no longer be an executive officer, announced his exit during a closed meeting of the group’s board last Thursday. He disclosed his decision just after the group voted not to commission a $10,000 to $15,000 study to examine the expected impact of the proposed $850 million Flushing Commons mixed-use development project on surrounding business owners, he said.

Gerson, who is a partner in a partnership that owns a commercial building on the corner of 39th Avenue and Main Street, has been one of the strongest and most prominent voices opposing the project, raising red flags with some of the project’s supporters who question his motives. They worry that he is so outspoken because it may be in his financial interest for the parking rates to stay as low as they currently are in order to attract and retain tenants in his building.

But Gerson denied such accusations, saying he is worried about the impact the projects will have on all Flushing merchants and land values. He said he stepped down because he realized when the BID board voted not to commission the business compensation study, that chairing the BID does not allow him to do all he would like to for Flushing merchants, especially those on Union Street, which is not included in the BID’s coverage area.

He has also joined the Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development, a new group that includes many Union Street merchants as well as other Flushing businesspeople and property owners, and which advocates for ensuring any development in Flushing is done in a way takes into account their concerns.

“The BID has been rendered ineffective at helping the constituents who I felt it should represent, namely the business owners and property owners in Flushing,” he said. “If you can’t do your job, you shouldn’t be in it. I figure I can do a much better job representing the merchants now than when I was in it. There’s a lot of things I can say now as an individual rather than as a representative of the BID.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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