By Madina Toure

Flushing residents, business owners and community leaders have launched the Flushing 2050 Community Building Initiative to establish a collective, community-led vision for the neighborhood’s future.

Partners in Progress, a collaboration created by Asian Americans for Equality, was set up to assess the area’s progress and quality of life for the future. Citi Foundation and the Low-Income Investment Fund provided funding.

More than 30 representatives from Flushing, including elected officials, community leaders and key institutions, came together Jan. 28 in the Topaz Room of the Sheraton LaGuardia East Hotel on 39th Avenue near Prince Street for the formal kickoff of the initiative.

Isabelle Leighton, director of AAFE’s Equality Fund, said the organization has been working in Flushing for 20 years.

“It’s limited because we know there’s so many institutions here, there’s so many different voices, so we want to be able to bring in even more,” Leighton said.

The first phase of the initiative will start March 5 with a Flushing 2050 Community Forum that will include workshops and meetings facilitated by the Municipal Arts Society, the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce and AAFE.

Other activities over the course of the year will include a commercial district needs assessment, site studies, consumer market surveys, cultural mapping tours and a creative economy session featuring local artists, entrepreneurs, young professionals and performers.

John Choe, the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, said the initiative is about not only helping people feed their families but also job creation.

The chamber was selected by the city as one of the first organizations to host the new Neighborhood 360° Fellows program, which pairs community organizers to facilitate increased collaboration between local stakeholders centered on economic development initiatives.

He noted the chamber is working with the city to collect information on business owners in the area over the next couple of months.

“This is the first time that the city has funded a survey of the business community in Flushing,” Choe said.

State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) said it takes this type of “brain trust” to figure out how to zone and prepare properly for the next 35 years.

Urban planners did not anticipate the type of growth that has occurred in the neighborhood, Kim said.

“This is a vision that’s been needed for so many years, where people from private, public and community groups that have represented Flushing since the 17th century—the Bowne House to third-generation building owners—they’re all here today because they care about the future of Flushing,” Kim said.

Also in attendance were Simon Gerson of Gerson Properties; Dian Yu of the Flushing Business Improvement District; and Maureen Reagan of the Queensboro Hill Civic Association.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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