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Bridge to Willets Pt. pushed

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Flushing and Corona leaders continue to make incremental progress on the plans for the revitalization of the Flushing River waterfront to accompany the redevelopment of Willets Point.

The board of the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. met last Thursday with other leaders, including Maura McCarthy, Queens borough commissioner of the city Department of Transportation, to discuss options for the long-neglected area.

Possible plans discussed at the meeting include one which is not well-known among nearby residents but could have a significant impact on the area’s character: the construction of a pedestrian bridge connecting Flushing’s business district to Willets Point.

Such a bridge would serve the purpose of bringing the two areas together as a cohesive whole, said Fred Fu, former president of the Flushing Chinese Business Association and current president of the Flushing Development Center.

“We Flushing people are concerned about Willets Point. We don’t want Flushing and Willets Point to be competitors, two cities,” he said. “If we have a bridge, they will be one city.”

Current city plans for the Willets Point redevelopment project do not include a bridge or money to build one, however, so Fu and other local business leaders are pushing through various channels to boost support for one.

The state awarded the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. a $1.5 million grant earlier this month through its Brownfield Opportunities Area Program, money it can use to study future development plans and pollution remedies along the Flushing River.

Former Borough President Claire Shulman, who now heads the development group, said she and the group’s board plan to secure funding, maybe even from the federal government, for the bridge and that they “intend to do everything we can to make sure it happens.”

The city Economic Development Corporation announced Monday it has issued requests for qualifications for potential developers for the project. The requests will determine whether the developers are sufficiently knowledgeable about the project and able to carry out the work. The eligible developers can respond to requests for proposals which are expected to be issued next year.

The city also took another major step toward moving forward with the project, the EDC announced Monday, buying three more parcels of land in Willets Point totaling more than 65,000 square feet.

Shulman said she is optimistic about the development project’s chances of including a bridge.

“We would like to have a major improvement to the waterfront in downtown Flushing, and we want to have a comparable situation on the east side of the river in Flushing to match the west side of the river in Willets Point, and the pedestrian bridge is part of the plan,” she said. “And we are very hopeful. It will take a while, it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you don’t start it you’ll never finish it, so we are getting started.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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