BY LYNN EDMONDS, Staff Writer
Waterfront access to a picturesque creek; affordable housing for senior citizens; pedestrian friendly streets and open space; these are just some of the ideas that the City and stakeholders have for the now-mostly industrial Flushing West neighborhood.
The Department of City Planning will present draft zoning recommendations for the neighborhood, bounded by Northern Boulevard to the North, the Van Wyck Expressway to the West, Roosevelt Avenue to the South, and Prince Street to the East, on Oct. 7, after months of planning and meetings with community stakeholders, and years of work before that.
It’s an effort that goes back to 2010, when the Flushing-Willets Point-Corona Local Development Corporation won a $1.5 million Brownfield Opportunity Area grant to improve the area.
Their presentation should begin to identify specific ways to meet their goals of open space, a publicly–accessible waterfront esplanade, business opportunities and affordable housing.”
Flushing West, which touches the western edge of Flushing’s commercial hub, is home to small stores, hotels, the former Flushing Mall, and some industry; including auto shops, contractors, and a U-haul warehouse.
The area around the waterfront currently isn’t much to look at, and city workers at the most recent public meeting on Sept. 12 said that the current zoning regulations could incentivize businesses that are even less welcoming to pedestrians to start cropping up.
The M3-1 zoning that exists in the Northwest corner of the study area, for example, is the highest intensity industrial type of zoning that exists, and allows for noxious businesses.
Another change that would likely benefit pedestrians is increased waterfront access. Currently, there is little access to the waterfront, and where there is space to walk, the promenade is narrower than required under city regulations.
But the most ambitious goal may be to create more affordable housing.
But Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said developers are unlikely to bite unless they get some concessions.
“Developers develop buildings to make money, they don’t do it for charity,” he said.
The challenge is identifying potential concessions for developers the councilman added, in an area near the airport and the water – where building up, and building down, is not an option.
He also mentioned quality of life issues, like congestion, school overcrowding, air pollution, and sewer lines that are straining to meet the community’s needs already.
“We have to find some way to improve on those quality of life issues and also infrastructure issues,” he said. “The idea is good, but it’s a challenge.”
The draft zoning presentation will take place on Oct. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Flushing Library on Main Street.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana