The fight over Flushing Commons shifted to the City Council yesterday, as a key subcommittee turned its attention to the contentious megaproject and the battle royale over parking in booming downtown Flushing. Though the developers propose to redevelop an 1,100-space municipal parking lot and still increase the total amount of parking on-site, that isn't enough for most members of the City Council or the vociferous critics who turned out for the hearing. The pressure on the developer is pushing in only one direction: build more parking and charge less for it.
Flushing Commons will already flood Downtown Flushing with parking, but many are calling for even more. Image: Inhabitat
Council members may show fluency with the policy details of some issues, but yesterday's hearing proved that parking isn't one of them. Basic concepts, like the fact that adding more parking will exacerbate Flushing's grinding congestion, not alleviate it, or that free parking is bad for business, simply haven't begun to penetrate the consciousness of most council members, who wield final authority over major land use decisions. Sustainable transportation advocates have a long way to go in educating our legislators about how parking really works.
In a rarity for the NYC land-use process, where battles tend to focus on building heights, housing affordability, or job creation, parking issues took center stage at yesterday's hearing. Flushing merchants waved signs reading "Give us parking or death" as the Zoning Subcommittee interrogated the development team over the appropriate quantity and price of parking at Flushing Commons.
The proposal for Flushing Commons includes 1,600 parking spaces, with another 200 slated for addition to a nearby municipal lot. That number came straight from the parking-obsessed Economic Development Corporation, which reasoned that Flushing Commons should build not only the number of spaces required by zoning -- around 700 -- but also replace each one of the 1,100 subsidized spaces in the municipal lot it will replace. It's an enormous allocation of space to the private automobile in the heart of downtown Flushing, a neighborhood with the third busiest pedestrian intersection in the city and the busiest subway station outside Manhattan.
Most people who testified, however, believed 1,600 parking spaces would be unacceptably few. Without the ability to park all day at the municipal lot, said one Union Street merchant through a translator, "I have to give up my job. I don't want to lose my job and I oppose this project." Her sentiment was repeated over and over again.
Elected officials responded by calling for more and cheaper parking, seemingly unaware that their position would take a toll on housing affordability, transit service, street safety, and the bottom lines of many businesses. Read more...