Sunday, July 25, 2010

Queens Merchants Blast Plan To Sell, Develop Municipal Lot by CeFaan Kim -

Business owners in downtown Flushing held a rally Saturday over a plan to turn a municipal parking lot into a mega-million dollar mixed-use development. NY1's CeFaan Kim filed the following report.

Nearly a hundred small business owners marched on downtown Flushing's largest municipal parking lot Sunday. A proposal to sell the land to a private developer could be approved by the City Council in a few days. The plan is to transform the lot into an $850 million mixed-use development with residential and retail space. But merchants say losing the parking spaces will cripple their businesses.

"If there's no parking spaces, we're going to go out of business. I mean that's a simple fact. People from the city keep saying 'it's going to be okay, it's going to be okay.' No it's not going to be okay," said small business owner Ikhwan Rim.

Developers of the project say lack of parking will not be a problem. The current lot has space for 1,100 cars. Flushing Commons would hold 1,600 but would also add 620 condominiums.

"We do not need anymore gridlock. Flushing is congested enough, think about it, we have the third highest foot traffic and one of the busiest transportation hubs in our city," said SJ Jung of the MinKwon Center.

The project will also include a new home for the Flushing YMCA, a hotel and open green space. It's expected to create 2,000 construction jobs and 2,000 more permanent jobs. The plan is supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and by local Council member Peter Koo.

The other issue is how much parking will cost. Developers have agreed to a below market cap for the first five years. Merchants are worried the price will skyrocket in year six.

"Is anybody willing to spend $7 or $8 parking to spend lunch time in this area?" said small business owner Daniel Kung.

Developers say they will not raise parking fees that will drive away business, and that in order for the project to succeed it must attract customers.

The full City Council will vote on the plan Tuesday. Sources say the proposal will likely pass with an overwhelming margin.