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Developer lays out Flushing waterfront plan

TimesLedger Newspapers

The long-stalled plans to redevelop the downtown Flushing waterfront were the center of a public outreach session last week, drawing dozens of residents and business and community leaders to Flushing Town Hall for a presentation on the proposal.

New life was breathed into the Flushing waterfront vision earlier this month with the news that a $1.5 million state grant had been awarded to the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. to begin a new phase of planning.

On Oct. 18, the LDC hosted a discussion and roundtable for community stakeholders to meet the LDC’s members, the architects and builders working to develop a plan for the 60-acre site bounded by Northern Boulevard, Roosevelt Avenue, Prince Street and the Van Wyck Expressway.

Attendees listened to an introduction and update on the plan, then spoke with various players, learning about its details and making recommendations for ways it could best serve their needs.

The plan for the waterfront would clear the way to reappropriate the underused land for higher-density residential, commercial and mixed uses, create waterfront access and park space, build a bridge connecting Flushing to Willets Point, clean up the Flushing River and more.

The LDC’s head, former Borough President Claire Shulman, led the discussion, expounding on the virtues of the plan and the ways the LDC will ensure it is a net positive for the people of Flushing and the rest of the borough.

“It’s the beginning of a master plan for these 60 acres,” she said. “We will meet with all the landowners, the civic associations, the business owners, and after we’ve met with everyone we’ll come up with a plan for the future and for opening the waterfront so the community can enjoy it.”

The proposal rests on the controversial premise that the entire area is a “brownfield,” meaning it is eligible to be redeveloped for better uses, and may even be a candidate to be repurposed through the use of eminent domain.

That does not sit well with Willets Point United, a group representing the interests of property owners just across the river in Willets Point, who are opposed to the LDC because of legal imbroglios that have followed it, including the group’s being fined $59,000 by the city clerk’s office for violations of lobbying law.

“WPU believes that the circumstances of this grant award are as questionable and improper as, for example, the unregistered lobbying already performed unlawfully by Shulman’s LDC during 2007 and 2008, for which the LDC was held liable to pay a then-record financial penalty of $59,090,” the group said in a statement.

But the mood was optimistic at Flushing Town Hall, and Linh Do, a senior vice president at the consulting firm AKRF, which is working on the brownfield portion of the waterfront plan, said the project will reshape the future of Flushing.

“The goal of moving it forward is to maintain Flushing’s status as one of New York City’s important downtowns, and to allow for mixed-use development and to create access to the waterfront,” she said.

For more information about the LDC or the waterfront plan, visit queensalive.org.

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

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