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Flushing Chamber closing

TimesLedger Newspapers

The Flushing Chamber of Commerce and Business Association announced last week it will dissolve after decades of operating in the community.

Myra Baird Herce, co-president of the association, made the announcement Friday, citing the changing demographics of the Flushing area and the emergence of a host of new business organizations that cater to the community.

“It is like the end of an era for this group,” Herce said. “But it was time to move on.”

The chamber was first established in 1928, and advocated on behalf of the business community to promote economic development in the neighborhood, according to Herce.

The chamber has pushed for the restoration of the RKO Keith’s Theatre on Main Street in downtown as well as the transformation of Municipal Parking Lot No. 1 into some sort of commercial center.

“We thought these would bring in jobs and put a different spin in the area,” she said.

Yet the projects, undertaken by private developers, have had difficulty getting off the ground.

The theater was recently cleared for construction after the federal government held up the project due to height restrictions near LaGuardia Airport, and a plan for a $850 million project on the site of the parking lot has not yet broken ground due to funding issues.

In addition, the chamber advocated for the redevelopment of the Willets Point area near Citi Field, which is currently mired in controversy regarding the eminent domain process.

While issues with the projects have been ongoing, in recent years the chamber has been sapped of its core strength.

The other two co-presidents had left the chamber: Jack Hogan died about two years ago and Richard Gelman moved out of the state.

That left Herce to hold meetings and attending various hearings to speak on behalf of the community.

In its heyday its meetings would be packed with people from all over northeast Queens, according to Frank Macchio, a developer who also sits on Community Board 7.

“During the 1980s and 1990s, the Flushing Chamber was abuzz with business and commerce,” Macchio said.

But Herce said the chamber had run its course and the neighborhood could rely on the abundance of other business organizations like the Flushing Chinese Business Association, Taiwan Merchants Association, Flushing Development Center, Korean American Small Business Service Center of New York and the Flushing Business Improvement District to take over.

Recently, an organization called One Flushing also formed to aide the small business community.

Herce sees the support of the organizations as giving Flushing a bright future, and if another chamber is needed, the business owners will respond.

“Do I think other people will want to form a chamber?” she asked. “If there is a need for it, the business people will get together.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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