CB 7 members question plans to rezone part of waterfront

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Former Borough President Claire Shulman’s lobbying firm presented plans to rezone a portion of the Flushing River waterfront to Community Board 7, a project it says will provide both a literal and a figurative bridge to the city’s planned redevelopment of Willets Point.

The vision for the area, developed by Jay Valgora’s Studio V architectural firm with guidance from Shulman’s Flushing⁄Willets Point⁄Corona LDC, elected officials and the Department of City Planning, would create a special zoning district adjacent to Muss Development’s Skyview Parc and provide waterfront access, a bolstered commercial district and affordable housing if realized

Given the Flushing River’s history as a heavily polluted waterway abutted primarily by heavy manufacturing and industrial uses, board members were skeptical.

“What makes you think that people will want to go down to the river in the summer?” asked board member Kim O’Hannion. “Have you ever been there in the summer? It stinks.”

But Valgora said not only is the project viable, but the current state of the Flushing River waterfront makes it essential.

“I think that only doubles the importance of the site,” Valgora said. “That community is cut off from the waterfront. To me, this would be taking a beautiful site that is disconnected from downtown, allowing the community to go back and reclaim its waterfront.”

Studio V’s plan envisions rezoning the area west of College Point Boulevard from Roosevelt Avenue to Northern Boulevard to allow for multi−story commercial and residential development, underground parking and cascading green space that will lead down to the river itself, where a bridge flush with plantings would allow people to walk over toward what it anticipates will be a redeveloped Willets Point.

Project Architect Gregory Haley, who presented the plan to the board, said since the plans are in their infancy, it is important to think of the area not as it is now, but what it could be after cleanup and dredging promised by Borough President Helen Marshall and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D−Jackson Heights) had taken place along the waterfront.

“We’re planning for the future,” Haley said. “Flushing has retail on multiple levels, something that doesn’t take place in much of the country, and it thrives. What we want to do is just extend that success down to the waterfront and reclaim it for the community.”

But CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian cautioned that there is a long, deep gap between what exists today and what Haley was presenting.

“The spirit of the plan is good, but it has a lot of holes in it,” he said.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 6:36 pm, October 10, 2011
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