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Commons foes cite project’s problems

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As the final City Council verdict looms on whether or not the controversial $850 million Flushing Commons project will be allowed to be built in downtown Flushing, opponents are scrambling to highlight what they call unresolved issues about the proposed development.

The Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development, a new group opposed to the current plans for Flushing Commons, commissioned the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development to complete an analysis of the impact the project would have on area businesses.

That report came out earlier this month and some of its findings are fueling a new round of concerns about the gigantic project, which is slated to be built over the current site of Municipal Lot 1 and accompanied by the Macedonia Plaza affordable housing building.

The City Planning Commission voted to approve the project June 23 and the Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises is holding a public hearing on the plan this Thursday. The subcommittee plans to vote on the proposal July 27, after which it will go on to the Land Use Committee July 28 and finally be either approved or denied by the Council July 29, according to current planned timelines.

Jim Gerson, co-president of the Flushing Coalition for Responsible Development, said the Hunter College study should be taken into consideration and that the project should not move forward as planned because the study shows that Flushing Commons will cause many lost jobs, put local merchants out of business and more.

“The study shows that there’s more than twice as many businesses as the [Environmental Impact Study] had counted. Contrary to what the EIS says, the businesses that go into Flushing Commons will be highly competitive, according to the study, and there will be a loss of as many as 2,000 existing jobs,” Gerson said. “My personal opinion is that it’ll be higher. That’s the number they use. The reason I think it will be higher is because no one has looked at the impact of the loss of parking and the increase in parking rates and gridlock that will be created by Flushing Commons.”

Gerson said the group has taken its concerns to Council members and that the Land Use Committee has been attentive to them.

“They seem to be looking carefully at some of the issues we’ve raised. I don’t know what that means, but at least they’re listening,” he said.

But Michael Myer, president of the project’s developer, TDC Development, said Flushing has rallied behind the project after hearing for months about its benefits to the community.

“The final act. It’s been, to quote Donald Rumsfeld, a long hard slog, but we’re gratified that we’ve gone through all the reviews and all the analysis and demonstrated so far to all the community groups and the elected officials that it’s a great project,” he said. “We think it’s been a great public process and we look forward to working with the City Council.”

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

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