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CB 7 approves Flushing Commons plan with conditions

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Community Board 7 voted 35-2 Monday night to support the construction with stipulations of two major mixed-use developments, the construction of which would permanently change the face of downtown Flushing.

The $800 million-plus Flushing Commons project would create an urban plaza to anchor the downtown area, while the Macedonia Plaza project would offer 140 new units of affordable housing.

CB 7 Vice Chair Chuck Apelian emphasized Monday the importance of ensuring the non-binding recommendation the board passes to Borough President Helen Marshall and City Councilman Peter Koo (R-Flushing) outlines its concerns about the projects’ shortcomings. The board considered the projects as a single entity for much of the night.

“This is different than any other project we’ve ever had,” he said. “This is right smack in the middle of everything so it’s got to work. If it doesn’t work, we’re dead.”

The vote came in the final hours of the 60-day period the board had to review Flushing Commons. The board has no actual power to block or change a project, it can only make recommendations to the higher officials who will make the final decisions.

As such, CB 7 recommended a number of stipulations based on concerns its members had with the project.

Some of the ´╗┐approved stipulations include parking and traffic fixes, converting the YMCA’s current building into a public school, a movie theater at Flushing Commons and more.

A letter sent Monday by Deputy Mayor Robert C Lieber addressed some concerns the board and community members had about the project, but Apelian said more was needed, hence the stipulations.

When the project first came before the community board, community backlash was strong, but when supporters of the project, including Koo and Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) spoke in its favor Monday, attendees applauded thunderously.

“It’s not a perfect plan, nothing is perfect, but if this plan works it’s going to put Flushing back on the map,” CB 7 member Nick Miglino said. “Flushing will be a destination once again.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg released a statement in support of the project within half a day of its approval by CB 7.

“Today’s approval of Flushing Commons by Community Board 7 is an important step in the transformation of a 5-acre parking lot into a vibrant urban center that will offer new housing and retail options, hotel or office space and more parking,” Bloomberg said.

Flushing Commons, expected to begin construction on the current site of Municipal Lot 1, between 37th and 39th avenues between 138th and Union streets, in 2011 and be ready for occupancy in 2013, would include 1,600 parking spaces, 620 high-end residential condos, 275,000 square feet of retail, 234,000 square feet of hotel and/or office space, 36,000 square feet of community space, 1.5 acres of green space and a 62,000 square-foot YMCA.

The 14-story Macedonia Plaza would include the housing as well as ground-floor retail space and a daycare center on land owned by the 199-year-old Macedonia AME Church, at 37-22 Union St.

Marshall will host a hearing on the Flushing Commons project April 20.

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

Updated 5:49 pm, October 10, 2011
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