Mayoral candidate Eric Adams made a visit to Downtown Flushing May 17 to show support for the hundreds of small businesses that line the commercial corridor.
“We must come and give support to the small businesses in this area. This area was devastated by Covid-19,” Adams said in front of the Flushing Public Library. “Many businesses closed down. Our restaurants are hurting, our small businesses are hurting.”
The mayoral hopeful said that outerborough small businesses are a vital aspect to his business recovery plan, which would prioritize minority- and women-owned shops for city contracts, give tax breaks to bars and restaurants and eliminate fees for mom and pops.
Adams was introduced by area City Councilmember Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who endorsed the candidate in his bid to be the city’s next boss. Koo, a strong advocate for small business, had said he values Adams’ history as a working-class man.
But some small business leaders were disappointed that Adams did not speak about the Main Street busway as they had anticipated him to. A team member from Adams’ campaign told the Chronicle the topic wasn’t included in Adams’ itinerary, and chalked it up to a possible “miscommunication.”
Since last June, business owners in Downtown Flushing have rejected the busway out of fears the lack of parking and traffic backup would drive business away. Some hoped Adams would condemn the pilot program as part of his effort to revive small shops, but the candidate has shown support for implementing more bus lanes on social media.
The Main Street busway pilot began in January. A post-implementation survey conducted by the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District found that 100 percent of respondents suffered a negative impact as a result of the busway. Of 143 businesses surveyed, 104 suffered at least a 26 percent revenue drop.
“The buses are just passing through. You have a small part of people that get off the buses and shop or pick up coffee, but for the most part they’re just passing through,” said Henry Bergmann, a commercial building owner who said he’s suffered a “significant” decrease in business since the busway was implemented.
Rob, another area shopkeeper, said the hefty fines for violating busway flow have resulted in drivers avoiding Flushing altogether. Those who ignore signange directions along Main Street can be fined $50 on the first offense, but the rate will continue to rise as one continues to ignore the regulations to as much as $250. But the signange and pathways are convoluted, Rob added, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the area or whose first language isn’t English.
“It sounded great for the community, but like all government proposals, when it hit the street — where people live and work — it’s nothing but trouble. It’s another way to fine you more. That’s what reality is,” Rob said.
The city Department of Transportation is conducting its own survey on the Main Street busway. The project is nearly halfway through its pilot year.