At what was called a “Community Visioning Meeting” on Dec. 18, officials announced that the long-evolving project to develop Municipal Parking Lot 3 in Flushing to provide affordable housing is moving forward.
Representatives of various agencies and several elected officials were in attendance at the meeting, but the public was noticeably underrepresented, owing, apparently, to the short notice and early meeting at 5 p.m.
The project aims to convert the lot, located at 41st Avenue and abutting the Long Island Rail Road station, into much-needed affordable housing, as well as providing commercial space, while maintaining as many of the 157 existing parking spaces as possible.
A still-fluid timetable, offered by the city Department of Housing, Preservation and Development, indicated that construction could begin within a year, with the actual work taking between 18 and 24 months.
In a presentation on behalf of the HPD, Director of Pipeline Planning Eunice Suh said the project’s feasibility analysis would begin sometime this winter. According to plans, the Request for Proposals would be released by the spring with the RFP submissions due by next summer. The RFP developer selection is expected to be announced by next fall.
Gabriella Amabile, an assistant HPD commissioner, called it “an optimistic timeline versus a snag timeline.”
The meeting, according to Christopher Gonzalez, another assistant commissioner, was “pulled together at the request of both council members,” namely Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who made a brief appearance, and Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), who was represented by staff members.
One instrumental figure in the project’s development, former borough president Claire Shulman, who heads the Flushing, Willets Point, Corona Local Development Corp., said that the project has been discussed for many years. “Everyone agreed this was a great project. Here we are four or five years later. Better late than never.”
Shulman suggested progress on the project was “held back because of the EIS at Willets Point.” It was a reference to the challenges to the Environmental Impact Statement, a document that describes the positive and negative effects a proposed action could have, in that controversial case. “The city didn’t want another lawsuit,” she said.
“Our preference is affordable housing with the possibility for senior housing,” she said of the 43,200-square-foot-lot, citing requests from the Asian community which, she said, has faced suicides by seniors who found themselves with no viable place to live. “Affordable housing is a very important issue in Flushing, an absolute must.” .
Koo called Muni Lot 3 “an important project in our community that affects transportation and provides the opportunity for more affordable housing.”
Feedback from those in attendance suggested that the conversion should also include plans for community-based facilities, possibly a primary care clinic and a school, as well as a meeting space for non-profit organizations.
Affordable parking was also of concern, prompting Amabile to say, “There is only so much a development can bear in terms of subsidies.”
But it was affordable housing that remained front and center. According to Suh, it is likely that all the units built would be for affordable housing. She estimated that between 100 to 200 units would be constructed.
Maria Julia Echart, leader of the housing committee for Make the Road New York, a nonprofit organization that had several members in attendance, said, that the community is in desperate need of affordable housing. “We can always deal with parking as we always have.”
Along with the housing developments are planned improvements to the LIRR station. A representative said the LIRR is in the process of updating the “entire station environment,” including two elevators, both accessible from Main Street. In addition, lighting on the platform will be replaced. Also planned are new stairways and a new ticket office.
Shulman said she would like to see the RFP “move even more quickly than this spring.” A Ferreras representative promised, “We are all going to hold each other accountable.”
The feasibility study is to begin in the coming weeks, with a follow-up meeting to be scheduled, possibly in February.