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Qns. College class studies Flushing waterfront plans

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The future of the Flushing River’s waterfront between downtown Flushing and Willets Point was the focus Monday night at Queens Library.

Queens College Professor Tarry Hum’s urban studies class joined with the MinKwon Center for Community Action to present the results of a survey they conducted over the past semester looking at the waterfront, plans for developing it and residents’ suggestions for its future.

“This class was unique in that we were able to go from a lecture to being a service class, actually going out into the community and seeing how everything is really done,” undergraduate Sean Dalpiaz said during the presentation.

The city Economic Development Corp., in conjunction with the Flushing-Willets Point-Corona LDC and other stakeholders, has spent much of the last decade mulling possibilities for 45 to 60 acres of land bounded loosely by Roosevelt Avenue, Northern Boulevard, Prince Street and the Flushing River.

The course’s students — all of whom but one were undergrads — joined with MinKwon, a nonprofit that advocates for Korean-Americans’ civil rights, to tackle the difficult job of assessing the city and LDC’s progress on their Flushing waterfront plants.

They also studied awareness of the project and wishes among members of the communities that will be affected by whatever is done with the land and the river, which are currently polluted and underused, according to undergraduate Jean Kapkanoff.

She said there is little access to the waterfront, practically no boat traffic, a powerfully bad odor and little foot traffic nearby.

The redevelopment plan is an opportunity to overhaul the site and bring needed amenities to area residents and shop owners, which is why the survey was conducted, Hum said.

Jake Dong, housing organizer for the MinKwon Center, said the level of awareness about the plans is low among both residents and business owners, which means community leaders need to raise its profile.

“One of the sad things we learned during this survey was that the awareness of this redevelopment proposal is really low,” Dong said. “This is an issue that will really impact our community.”

The results of the survey showed that though few people knew much about the plan to bring housing, parks and waterfront access to the neglected corridor, once people heard about it, they generally supported the idea for a similar set of amenities.

The top three things surveyed residents said they wanted there were parks/open space, affordable housing and jobs, while surveyed business owners said they would like it to include parks/open space, affordable housing and child-care facilities.

Nick Roberts, project manager for the Flushing-Willets Point group, said the organization hopes to work with the community to find a plan for the area that suits everyone.

“We’re still working pretty assiduously with City Planning, HPD and EDC to fine-tune this master-plan for the waterfront,” he said. “We’re still at the point where we’re soliciting input from the Flushing community, and the next part would be generating funding and community support for the master plan.”

Whether or not the study will have any impact on the final vision for the area remains to be seen, but Hum said it was a great experience even if it never gets any attention.

“I actually always hope that in these types of classes we will be able to get out into the community and partner with a great organization like the MinKwon Center,” she said. “I think my students learn so much by going out and speaking to Queens residents.”

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

Updated 10:52 am, October 12, 2011
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