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Editorial: The future of Flushing

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) is a dropout from “City Council 101." The first Asian American elected to the City Council found the three days of introductory lessons offered to the new class of council members, which includes almost every member, to be offensive and condescending. Running the city “isn't rocket science,” he says.

Besides that, the councilman has work to do. Downtown Flushing is choking on its own success. Driving through the downtown area or trying to park in the area is a nightmare. And taking mass transit in downtown Flushing is no picnic.

Flushing has been Boomtown USA for more than a decade. Thanks mostly to Asian-American small business owners, this area has experienced nonstop economic growth. But Liu is absolutely right when he says that Flushing has suffered from a lack of planning.

The commercial district in Flushing grew dramatically as money poured in from Asian investors. But the infrastructure of Flushing did not keep pace with this growth. Now the crush of cars and buses threatens to squeeze the life out of this vibrant commercial district.

At the moment, the councilman is looking at modest cosmetic changes in downtown Flushing, such as the creation of one-way streets and stricter enforcement of traffic laws. But more ticketing won’t save Flushing. The area needs an ambitious master plan that recognizes the potential of the commercial district.

One of the biggest problems is busing. Hundreds of buses serve thousands of commuters taking the No. 7 train to the city and home each day. We agree with Borough President Helen Marshall that downtown Flushing needs a bus terminal, a central hub where commuters can wait safely and comfortably for their buses each day, similar to the hub in downtown Jamaica. Buses would no longer be competing for curb space. In turn, the city could install meters, creating more on-street parking in the commercial district. This would alleviate the traffic congestion on Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

A bus terminal would be especially appreciated when the weather turns bad or late at night when the wait for a bus in Flushing can be a little frightening.

Key to the councilman’s dream for revitalizing Flushing is doing something — almost anything — with the decaying carcass of the RKO Keith’s theater. The theater sits on the intersection of Main Street and Northern Boulevard, at what Liu calls “the gateway not only to Flushing but all of the North Shore.”

At the moment the landmark theater is owned by a developer and convicted felon named Tommy Huang. Liu should pressure the city to find a legal means of taking this property away from Huang. This property that was once the very heart of Flushing has become an eyesore. It has been reported that the Flushing Town Hall is interested in using the property as performing arts space. Make it happen.

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