BY LYNN EDMONDS
The Flushing BID drew hundreds of guests and half a dozen politicians as well as other high profile people to its first annual gala on May 5th at the Sheraton LaGuardia hotel.
Big name guests like U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and former NYC comptroller and 2013 mayor candidate John Liu praised the BID and its role in supporting Flushing’s newfound economic growth and popularity.
“I’m really proud to see what the BID has done in the community that I grew up in,” Liu said, calling the organization the “best type of private-public partnership.”
“We’re not going to wait for government, but we demand government to be our partners,” he said.
The Flushing BID, led by Executive Director Dian Yu and Co-Chairs Tina Lee and Timothy Chuang, is planning to expand their area of coverage from their current backbone on Main Street between Northern Boulevard and Sanford Avenue, to encompass College Point Boulevard to the east and Union Street to the west, along with many of the side streets. Additionally, the plan to extend further south along Main Street.
The BID will also install 5-7 cameras, mostly along Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, to improve security.
Currently, the BID administers multiple programs to clean up and beautify flushing, including supplemental sanitation services, power washing, graffiti removal, hanging flower baskets, catch basin reporting, refurbishing and holiday lighting. They also print a restaurant guide, a bus map and a community calendar, and they host a street festival every summer.
Meng remarked on how much downtown Flushing had revitalized.
When she was growing up nearby, Meng said that “after a certain hour, you did not really come to downtown; people got mugged.”
Now, she said “Flushing continues to garner the interest of folks not just in the city and state but throughout the entire nation.”
But Meng said it was important to keep fighting for improvements. The congresswoman said she was focused on getting the Elmhurst LIRR stop re-opened, which could help alleviate congestion at the Flushing station.
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) was most vocal about quality of life problems in downtown Flushing. He blasted city agencies and sanitation companies for not doing more in the area.
“I’m going to be really blunt,” Koo began, before rattling off a list of problem.
The first he mentioned was sanitation.
“It’s a shame to the community,” he said of commercial trash in the streets, and a recent cover story that ran in the Queens Tribune entitled “Piles of Shame,” which described a trash problem in Flushing.
He said he was frustrated that after years of complaints and advocacy around sanitation issues in Flushing, the Department of Sanitation acted only after the article was published.
“It takes an English-language newspaper to deliver a message to whoever is accountable,” he said pointedly.
He also criticized the private companies that come and pick up the garbage.
“They leave the street very dirty, all the garbage is here,” he said.
Koo also went into traffic, parking problem, lack of commercial loading spaces, street vendors occupying sidewalk space.
Critically, he also said small business owners were struggling.
“Very few small business owners are making money lately,” Koo stressed.
The crowd clapped when he singled out high property taxes and rents as the source of the problem.
“We deliver a lot of tax to the city; I hope the city can do the same thing and deliver a service,” Koo concluded.
Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) also said he was looking for more investment from the city, specifically in transportation services and the MTA.
“We still think every road leads to Manhattan, and yet we are the ones creating the most number of jobs,” he said.
The Queens Tribune sponsored the gala along with other organizations.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana