The first baby steps were taken Tuesday to revitalize 60 acres in downtown Flushing adjacent to the Flushing River waterfront.
Consultants and officials with the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp. met with the public and landowners at Flushing Town Hall in two sessions to get their ideas for what’s needed. The area involved is from Northern Boulevard to Roosevelt Avenue and Prince Street to the Flushing River.
The impetus for the planning program was a $1.5 million state Brownfield grant awarded to the LDC in 2009. The site includes 32 potential Brownfield sites that are described by the state as underutilized properties. Some may be contaminated.
Nick Roberts, project manager for the LDC, said the planning is aimed at finding out what residents, owners and visitors want for the area, such as affordable housing. “This is a long-term project that may take 15 years,” Roberts said. “We don’t know how bad the contamination is, but it’s not as bad as at Willets Point.”
Along the waterfront, there are only two active businesses: the U-Haul building and a Korean supermarket. Most of the other properties are vacant.
Consultants from several firms were quick to assure that landowners will not be forced to build anything they don’t want, nor will eminent domain be considered.
“This is not a land grab,” said former borough President Claire Shulman, who heads the LDC. “We are not taking over property.”
Lynn Do, one of the consultants from AKRF Inc., said the purpose of the grant is to develop “a flexible master plan” that will be community-based and “will enhance waterfront access.”
She noted that Flushing is “bursting at the seams” and “we need to go west to create a place to visit and live.”
Roberts indicated that the LDC has just started to talk to landowners and the response has been positive.
Tuesday’s presentation included several poster boards showing the area involved through photographs and maps. Consultants were at each station, ready to talk to the public.
Participants were given Post-it notes so they could write down their ideas and stick them on the boards. During the afternoon session, there was a lot of looking but not many helpful notes given.
“No more hotels,” “No more people,” and “Eliminate the signs in foreign languages” were three suggestions.
One woman was more constructive with her idea. She wants a better street pattern on Prince Street and consultant Marty Taub agreed that the thoroughfare needs a different configuration.
Fred Fu, who heads the Flushing Development Center, said the problem in planning a cohesive area is not knowing what the owners want to do with their properties. “We don’t know what will happen, but this gets people talking and that’s good,” Fu said.
He added that if the waterfront area is developed, College Point Boulevard will become the major thoroughfare and will need work.
Flushing’s master plan, which was created several years ago, calls for a promenade along the shore and possible maritime use of the river.
Although the waterway still needs to be dredged, there are signs that pollution is abating. Egrets and cormorants are regular visitors to the area now.