Space in Flushing is limited, but its business owners are using every inch to their advantage this fall.
Starting next month, small businesses from the neighborhood can set up a second site at Lippman Plaza, a pedestrian walkway for commuters between Roosevelt Avenue and 39th Avenue. The venture is part of the Department of Transportation’s Outdoor Plaza program, which was implemented last year to rejuvenate commerce during the pandemic.
Members of the Downtown Flushing Transit Hub Business Improvement District announced Aug. 13 the minimart and the opening for registration. Interested businesses can submit a free application at flushingbid.com/lippman-plaza-minimart.
“Because of this pandemic, Flushing businesses [have been] run down,” said Timothy Chuang, one of the BID directors and owner of several area businesses, adding that the BID hopes the program will entice tourism to Flushing. “We try to have one location, one place to let the people running the businesses do it right here ... Our Flushing BID not only uses our hearts, we use our soul to try and bring people to Flushing and make everybody have a good quality of life and good business.”
The minimart will be one of 10 in Queens and 86 throughout the city, DOT Community Resource manager William Wynne said.
A kickoff date has not yet been determined, but the plaza will be open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Fridays starting sometime in September through late November. Eight vendors can sell their wares at a time, and an open stage for artists will be erected.
Bianca Ng, owner of COTS Travel and the BID’s program committee chair, compared the minimart to Flushing’s annual street festival, which has been suspended since 2019.
“Because of the pandemic, it didn’t happen last year. This year, it wouldn’t happen because we usually have it on 40th Road and now with outdoor dining there’s no space,” Ng said. “I see this program as kind of like an alternative for vendors to have a chance to showcase their businesses because this is a smaller scale of the street festival.”
Dian Yu, the BID’s executive director, said the plaza was chosen because it was the only space available that wouldn’t disrupt transportation or pedestrian flow. The busway, long opposed by the BID, has also largely impacted the ability for businesses to operate outside, Yu said.
The Downtown Flushing BID is taking full responsibility for the program. The organization will help cover costs so businesses can participate for free, and the BID will take on the responsibility of keeping the plaza, which has been notorious for its litter, clean.
Only legal businesses are allowed to participate, Yu said. The street vendors that crowd the Main Street sidewalks, most of which do not have permits, will not be eligible to apply.
“Flushing BID is creating legal opportunities for the local retailers to do business outside. With the Covid variant, we want to stay outside,” said Yu. “This place is only open to local retailers.”