BY LYNN EDMONDS
At a public scoping meeting on Tuesday, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said the pollution of Flushing Creek was a huge concern for the Flushing West Rezoning Proposal.
The Department of City Planning is proposing zoning changes to a portion of Downtown Flushing along Flushing Creek, which they say will increase affordable housing and create a pedestrian-friendly waterfront.
But Koo said he feared no one would want to live in the area, or utilize the waterfront for recreational purposes, if the creek was not cleaned up.
“As we know, the creek is basically a cesspool that fills up whenever it rains. No one wants to go near it, because it stinks. I still haven’t heard a real solution for a sustainable creek. I expected Flushing West will change that, otherwise, who wants to live there?” he said.
Currently, the Tallman Island Wastewater Treatment Plant handles Flushing’s sewage. But the facility works over capacity, so when rainstorms flood the City’s sewer lines, the combined sewage and run-off from city streets is dumped straight into the Creek without being treated.
Koo said city planners had to address the root of the problem.
“The ongoing dredging of the Creek is great, but it’s only a temporary fix to an ongoing problem. The entire creek must be dredged, and more importantly, new capacity must be built,” he said. “We need to be sure that the department of environmental protection and the army core of engineers are involved in the planning and implementation of Flushing West.”
He also cautioned against overly sweet deals for developers, who would already be attracted to the area. “The challenge here is not getting the market to invest, but to make sure the investments meet the needs of the community,” he said.
While the Councilman said he thought Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which would be applied in Flushing West, had potential, he said it needed to do more.
“Many people in Flushing simply cannot afford MIH as currently proposed,” he said.
The sentiment was also expressed by Jung Rae Jang, an Organizing Fellow at the MinKwon Center for Community Action. He said that residents in downtown Flushing only made an average of $39,000, but MIH assumed an income of $46,000 for their affordable units.
Aside from requiring MIH, the zoning amendments would include changing a C4-2 district to a C4-4A, a M1-2 to a MX M1-2/R7A, and a M3-1 to a M1-2. That would mean developers in the commercial district got to work with an increased Floor Area Ratio, the area currently zoned for light manufacturing would be allowed to include residential buildings, and the area zoned for heavy industry would be rezoned to allow light industry only.
The Flushing West rezoning area is bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, Prince Street, to the east, Roosevelt Avenue, to the South, and the Van Wyck Expressway, to the west. The current proposal for the area includes increasing waterfront access along Flushing Creek, requiring affordable housing as defined by de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, and re-zoning.
Written comments will be accepted by the Department of City Planning through Dec. 2.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana