Pols vow to work out kinks in Flushing Commons

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There are still some important details to be worked out on ways of offsetting Flushing Commons’ effects on local business owners, but the project is expected to clear the important hurdle of being voted out of the Council Zoning and Franchises Subcommittee when it reconvenes Tuesday.

The $850 million Flushing Commons mixed-use development project slated to be built in downtown Flushing will likely be approved by a key City Council subcommittee in the next two weeks, according to a Queens councilman with great influence over the negotiations.

Borough President Helen Marshall said she supports the project, as did a procession of Council members and other officials. But nearly all of them said they have outstanding concerns, which they said need to be addressed before they can be fully onboard with the plans.

Marshall mentioned several specific concerns she had, including compliance with guidelines regarding minority and women businesses and compensation for area merchants who will be affected by the construction.

“As part of the business interruption plan, the city should explore various means to help downtown Flushing small businesses, including aggressive marketing strategies, tax relief programs and closer alternative parking spaces, or perhaps jitney shuttle service to and from the identified interim parking areas to help them during the construction period,” she said.

Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), chairman of the Council Land Use Committee, the body that will vote on the project July 28 if it is approved by the subcommittee, said he and other Council members will work in the weeks following the hearing with local residents and business owners, the project’s developers and the city to find a compromise on issues regarding parking, traffic and local business retention and support.

“There are some tweaks that have to be done and the devil’s in the details, and my job as chair is to ensure that the majority of those details are resolved before the vote,” he said after a July 15 hearing at 250 Broadway in Manhattan. “The majority of these outstanding issues are not insurmountable. There’s a methodology to solving them, and they’ll be dealt with in collaboration, and most of them will be done soon .... There’s been some preliminary discussions and I’m confident they’ll be addressed.”

Rob Goldrich of the deputy mayor’s office seconded the councilman’s evaluations, adding he expected the project to move forward without any structural or substantive changes, though there will need to be a consensus reached to address concerns regarding impact on local merchants and Minority and Women Business Enterprise requirements.

The project’s opposition came to the hearing in full force, however, to counter the arguments made by its supporters.

Soon Ok Ko runs a garment alteration business on Union Street near Municipal Lot 1, the site where the project would be built. Macedonia Plaza, an affordable-housing complex to be voted on along with Flushing Commons that would be built on an adjacent lot owned by the Macedonia AME Church, has few if any vocal opponents.

Ko said she has been unable to sleep as a result of her concerns about the negative impact Flushing Commons will have on neighboring businesses during its construction.

“If this project goes through, I believe I will have almost no customers,” she said through an interpreter, summing up the concerns of a slew of local merchants who have voraciously opposed the project throughout the months-long public review process.

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

Updated 6:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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