Parking at the proposed Flushing Commons mixed-use development project seemed to be on the minds of officials Thursday at a meeting of the Community Board 7 District Cabinet meeting.
Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development — which is working with the Rockefeller Group to develop the five-acre project on the site of Municipal Parking Lot 1 — outlined plans at the cabinet’s monthly meeting held at the Queens Botanical Garden.
But those in attendance were more concerned about long-term parking than when the first shovel will go into the ground. Although the entire project is not expected to be completed before 2021, 1,144 parking spaces will be retained during construction.
Meyer explained that the project has been broken up into two phases so as not to disrupt parking during the conversion. The site is bounded by Union and 138th streets and 37th and 39th avenues.
He said the plan will reduce congestion and benefit merchants. But CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty was less sanguine about the plan, which calls for extended long-term parking on the second level of the existing lot.
“We want to divert commuter parking to Citi Field to open up more parking downtown,” Kelty said. “Instead, commuters will only have to pay $16 for the maximum time.”
The chairman said the announced plan “was not what we were told” and “that’s a big problem.”
He was supported by District Manager Marilyn Bitterman and representatives of the business community.
“If it becomes a problem with commuters hogging spaces, we can control it through pricing,” Meyer said.
The developer explained that rates will be different than the city’s, but that they will be locked in by the city until a year after the project’s completion.
Brian Collins, representing Standard Parking which will run the operation, said that unlike the city, his firm will charge fees on Sundays too. There will be metered parking on the street level, with valet and self-parking on the upper level and after two garages are built.
Meyer assured merchants that the project will be continually monitored and changes will be made, if necessary. “We won’t commit suicide for the stores,” he said. “We can’t predict what will happen, but we will continue to adjust the parking to get it right.”
Bitterman asked the developer to make a commitment to work with the community board cabinet and he agreed.
Meyer said he expects to close on the project with the city on Dec. 30 and start work on Jan. 2. Phase one construction will be located by Union Street and 39th Avenue. It will include a commercial building and a residential facility, with the first two floors of both used for retail. Underground parking will also be added and work will begin on a YMCA building.
During that phase, surface parking will be available to the public. Clearing the ground will begin in January with construction on the four-level underground facility to start in March.
Work on phase one is scheduled for completion in 2017. Phase two will include finishing the YMCA, an open space area and two other residential and commercial buildings. Another underground parking facility will also be built.
Meyer told the group that parking for the first two weeks of January will be free.
The $850 million development has been delayed three years due to lack of financing.
The remaining piece of the municipal lot is being developed by the Macedonia AME Church, which is building a 14-story, 142-unit affordable housing structure adjacent to the church. It is expected to be completed in March.