The Flushing community, particularly small businesses, is rejecting a city plan that would convert a 0.3-mile stretch of Main Street into a busway, according to an ongoing Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District survey.
“People come to Flushing because it’s convenient,” said Flushing BID Chairperson Timothy Chuang at a July 17 press conference that revealed the community’s ill feelings toward the plan. He noted that many shoppers visit the area by car. “They want to park where it’s only $2. It’s very good. They don’t want to go to the parking lot — one hour, $6 ... they go to the supermarket and buy heavy stuff ... they don’t want to carry [groceries on the bus]. If they want convenience, they’ll go to another place.”
Modeled after the 14th Street busway in Manhattan, the corridor would run along the northbound side of Main Street between Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard and aims to decrease transportation travel time and is scheduled to be implemented immediately. The street already features bus and truck priority treatments in the southbound direction that resulted in a 23 percent increase in bus speeds between 2017 and 2018, according to the Mayor’s Office.
“They’re concerned about the lack of parking, that the traffic would be diverted to surrounding streets,” area Democratic state Committeewoman Sandra Ung said. “We all know that many small businesses have suffered and continue to suffer from the pandemic, so before we implement any changes, we must ask the small businesses how they feel ... we must also recognize that any studies done before the pandemic [are no longer valid] ... The situation has changed.”
The Flushing BID began conducting a survey following the city’s June 8 announcement that Main Street, along with eight other locations throughout the city, would be converted into a private vehicle-free zone and found that the majority of residents and small businesses opposed the plan. As of July 22, only two of 225 Flushing businesses surveyed within the Main Street, Roosevelt Avenue, Union Street, 40th Road and Prince Street area favored the conversion, and over 1,000 Flushing residents submitted their opposition to the busway plan.
“This will impact the businesses down here in Flushing. It will hurt them because the people like me that drive my car will not come in — I’ll shop elsewhere,” said Community Board 7 Chairperson Gene Kelty. “I just came in the other day ... I parked my car, walked across, I got out of here and stayed out of the way ... You take that privilege away from me then I’ll just go somewhere else and the businesses will lose [my patronage], and right now we need all the businesses up and running after the coronavirus.”
While surveying the businesses that make up the Main Street corridor, Fan Chen of the Flushing BID noticed that between 60 to 70 percent of the owners were unaware of the city’s plan, which she attributes to a language barrier. Since the conversion announcement, the city hasn’t been forthcoming with information, she said.
The BID will conduct the survey, at flushingbid.com, for approximately another two weeks and encourages those who would be impacted to participate.