The Economic Development Corporation and developer TDC/Rockefeller Group met with members of Community Board 7 and City Councilman John Liu Feb. 6, saying spiraling construction costs have made it necessary to change the project plans.The proposed changes include scaling back proposed parking from 2,000 to about 1,600 spaces, bringing the price of parking closer to market level and redefining the community space for what was to be a large youth center.The $500 million Flushing Commons project, if built, will overhaul Flushing's Municipal Lot 1, currently the downtown area's largest and least expensive parking lot, which has 1,100 spaces.City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) blasted the changes, calling them "laughable" and potentially detrimental to the economy and residents of downtown Flushing."It's hard to see how the community benefits from the project with these proposed revisions," Liu said. "If the construction costs have gone so out of control as the EDC and developers claim, perhaps this entire project is no longer supported by the underlying economics."The project would create a large residential and commercial space envisioned as the epicenter of commerce in the bustling neighborhood. In addition to more than 350,000 square feet of commercial space, the project would also include 500 residential units and a 200-room business class hotel.Original plans, proposed in 2005, called for 2,000 underground parking spaces to be built and offered at below market rate, with about 400 of those spaces earmarked for the residents of the facility. Taking the residential spots into consideration, cutting 400 spaces from the project would only add about 100 spaces beyond what is currently provided by the municipal lot today.Flushing elected officials and members of Community Board 7 both approved the original plans after a series of meetings on the project, though they still drew some opposition from the community.The original plans brokered by the community and developers also included plans for a 100,000 square-foot community youth center, which TDC has said will now be about half the size due to high construction costs.State Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) said she was surprised by the changes, and upset the developers have not worked with local leaders more closely in recent weeks."What they're doing now with these changes is saying, 'Hey, we really didn't mean it,'" she said, referring to the original agreement proposed by the developer.TDC President Michael Meyer said in a statement that his firm fully understands the questions proposed by the elected officials and community leaders, pointing out that the plans are far from finalized."We recognize that the elected officials and residents continue to have very real and valid concerns on issues ranging from parking to construction impacts, and working with our partners at the NYC Economic Development Corporation, we will work hard to make sure those questions are addressed," Meyer said.Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at news@times
©2007 Community News Group
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