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Koo secures funds to spruce up Union Street

City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) has announced a beautification initiative he is funding to freshen up Union Street in downtown Flushing with a range of possible new features including a Chinatown-style archway, Korean statues and LED light strands in hopes of attracting more customers and tourists to the crowded thoroughfare.

Koo secured $500,000 in fiscal year 2012 capital funding from the Council to pay for the program, which is one of only four streetscape beautification projects it will fund this year.

“We hope to make Union Street one of the best places to shop in the five boroughs, for Asian Americans and other people,” Koo said during the announcement at the intersection of 39th Avenue and Union Street. “The final goal is to help the community. We want to make sure Union Street is a great place to shop and for tourists to visit.”

The money will be disbursed not to individual business owners but instead be dedicated as contracts are signed to perform work to improve the stretch. The plan is in its infancy, and Koo is collecting input from merchants on the street for what the money should be used for.

Ikwhan Rim, co-president of the Union Street Merchants Association, who joined Koo and Asian Americans For Equality Executive Director Christopher Kui at the event, proposed some possible ways to spend the money. Early suggestions include lining the street with decorative strings of LED lights, installing an archway similar to the one in Chinatown to anchor the area, posting Korean statues to represent luck and strength and painting footstep paths on the sidewalks to represent good luck and other themes.

“For Union Street merchants, economic times are really hard, so this project will help revitalize Union Street,” Rim said. “We have a difficult task to come — that’s figuring out how to best use this money to revitalize Union Street.”

Kui emphasized the threats posed to Union Street business owners by the planned redevelopment of Municipal Lot 1, a side of which is bounded by Union, to their bottom lines. TDC Development has plans to convert the garage into an $825 million mixed-use mega-project.

“In the past year or so there’s been a lot of discussion of whether the development of the municipal parking lot will impact Union Street merchants. We think it might so we wanted to find a way to make sure they prosper,” Kui said. “We believe that development should benefit everybody, nobody should be left behind.”

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

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