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CB 7 hears Commons parking plan

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The developer of Flushing Commons, an $800 million mixed-use project, turned down the volume on a hot-button issue last week by allaying some community concerns over parking problemsthat the project may cause, but many still remain.

Mike Meyer, president of TDC Development, introduced to Community Board 7 an interim parking plan which will more than replace the 1,100 parking spots in Municipal Lot 1 in other locations while construction is underway on Flushing Commons, which will be built where the lot stands now.The Flushing Commons developer said most long-term and commuter parking will be permanently shifted from the lot to one at Citi Field.

The project will include 1,600 parking spaces, 400 of which TDC expects to be used by residents of the project’s 620 condominiums, and hydraulic lifts the city plans to install in Municipal Lot 2 will create 188 additional spaces. Forty spaces along 37th Avenue will accommodate police vehicles, which currently park in Municipal Lot 1.

But concerns remain, particularly among the predominantly Korean-American business owners along Union Street and other nearby streets. They say the parking plan will reduce the number of shoppers in the area and that it does not provide enough spaces to accommodate Flushing Commons residents and workers. TDC predicted the project would bring 2,000 permanent jobs to Flushing.

“There should be at least a parking spot per family or per unit,” Terence Park, the Korean-American president of the Our Flushing Political Coalition, said. “Mathematic­ally we need more than 2,000 spaces ... people who live in Flushing want cars.”

Meyer presented arguments against increasing the number of spaces, suggesting that Flushing is becoming an urban center like Manhattan, where parking is limited, in part to reduce traffic congestion, so people may have to learn to live with less parking.

The intersection of Main and Roosevelt streets is tied with Manhattan’s 34th Street and Sixth Avenue for the third-highest traffic volume in the entire city, trailing only Times Square and 34th Street and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, Myer said.

“Too much parking creates too much traffic, which is bad for business and bad for quality of life in Flushing,” he said, adding that residents and workers may have to change their transportation habits to adapt to the urbanization of downtown Flushing.

TDC conducted extensive surveys of Municipal Lot 1 and determined it only reaches capacity between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturdays. As such, TDC estimated its planned lot will meet parking demand for all but two peak hours per week, when a valet service will park additional cars in aisles.

“You don’t really build your parking lot for the one or two hours a week when you’re running up against the limit,” Myer said.

CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian said the lot will likely be insufficient as there should be more spots for workers and residents.

“We’ve found that when we have 100 percent parking, projects are more successful,” he said. “We’ve actually had developers come back and thank us because we convinced them to put in more parking.”

Another chief community concern is the fact that TDC plans to raise parking rates which are currently set at $1 per hour or $4 per day. They say raising parking rates too much will drive away business.

Myer said current rates must be raised in order to avoid the current situation in which many spots in Municipal Lot 1 are taken up all day by commuters to Manhattan.

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

Updated 5:48 pm, October 10, 2011
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