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New chamber in the works for Flushing

One Flushing's John Choe (second from l.) helped gather representatives from business organizations like the Union Street Merchants Association and the Flushing Chinese Business Association, as well as elected officials, to initiate the formation of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. Photo by Joe Anuta
TimesLedger Newspapers

Business leaders in Flushing took the first steps to form a new chamber of commerce last week, replacing a previous organization that slowly petered out over a number of years.

Commerce organizations from the Chinese, Korean and African-American communities, along with business honchos from the neighborhood, gathered at a downtown office to announce their exploratory committee to gauge the community’s interest, but the gaggle of suited leaders was optimistic about what they would find.

“There is a lot of excitement,” said John Choe, who hosted the news conference at the office of his community advocacy group, One Flushing, at 39-01 Main St. “This reflects the diversity and strength of Flushing.”

The exploratory committee will take between six and 12 months to decide on how to proceed with the formation of a chamber, which will be called the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.

If it is formed, the chamber will advocate for the business interests of the community as a whole, which is currently served by organizations that are tailored to the needs of specific areas of Flushing — The Flushing Business Improvement District provides extra sanitation services to a specific area downtown, The Flushing Chinese Business Association serves the interests of the Chinese community just as the Korean American Chamber of Commerce serves the Korean Community. The Union Street Merchants Association, as the name implies, serves shop owners along Union Street.

“This will be like an umbrella organization,” Choe said.

For example, businesses belonging to a Korean organization might have a problem with the city government and not know that Chinese businesses are going through the same difficulties. The chamber, according to Choe, will unite the business community as one voice that can make its needs known and exercise power as a single bloc.

“The business community is an untapped resource,” he said.

But Peter Tu, head of the Flushing Chinese Business Association, also said the chamber will be about encouraging new businesses, especially outside of the Asian community.

“How can these non-Asian businesses understand Flushing?” he said. “That’s the job for the chamber.”

Jack Friedman, president of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, was also on hand to encourage the entrepreneurs.

“A chamber is a key ingredient that has been missing,” he said.

A previous chamber, headed by Myra Baird Herce during its final years, was sapped of its strength and gradually lost prominence in the community before officially disbanding earlier this year.

The Queens chamber can act as an umbrella organization for all the smaller chambers in the borough, according to Friedman, and upon request can provide business seminars and access to capital for new ventures.

But Choe had high hopes of putting the diverse community of Flushing on the tourism map by promoting downtown and lobbying the city to highlight the area, just as other commercial centers, like Downtown Manhattan and Brooklyn, are touted as destinations in addition to more iconic sites.

“There’s only so much you can do at the Statue of Liberty,” said Choe. “We have to put a spotlight on these communities.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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