Bloomberg Touts Approval of 1,600 Parking Spaces at Flushing Commons

flushing_b_aerial.jpgFlushing Commons puts growth next to a major transit hub, but it’s stashing a lot of parking there as well. Image: Rockefeller Group Development Corporation.

The City Planning Commission approved plans for the Flushing Commons development yesterday, sending the project forward through the land use approval process. Officials’ portrayals of this development, which will put 1,600 parking spaces in the middle of a transit-rich downtown, put the city’s tortured relationship with transit-oriented development into perfect perspective.

First, let’s see what City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden had to say. Burden understands that Flushing is rapidly turning into a downtown all its own, calling the area "one of the city’s most dynamic regional centers," and that it deserves development suited for a downtown, not a suburb.

More important, Burden highlighted the critical importance of building a walkable, dense project in a neighborhood with the busiest subway station outside Manhattan, 21 different bus routes and a Long Island Railroad station, and the third-busiest pedestrian intersection in all of New York. Explaining her support for the project, Burden said Flushing Commons "exemplifies sustainable, transit-oriented development that capitalizes on Flushing’s exceptional subway, bus and commuter rail access."

All of that is true, and Burden’s stated support for transit-oriented rezoning has generally translated to real-world results: Under Burden, the Department of City Planning’s many rezonings have, on average, pushed growth towards transit

But Flushing Commons will also include around 1,600 parking spaces, all priced below market rates. That means residents, shoppers, and workers at the mixed-use project will be driving into downtown Flushing, not taking transit. That doesn’t exemplify sustainability; it enshrines a car-centric lifestyle in steel and cement. 

Keep in mind that the total amount of parking is far greater than the developer wants to build or than the Department of City Planning itself requires. It was mandated by EDC and essentially pulled out of a hat.

So what does the city, ostensibly dedicated to reducing automobile use, have to say about stuffing so many more cars into horribly congested downtown Flushing? According to the developer, Michael Meyer, parking never came up at the planning commission meeting.

Mayor Bloomberg, however, raised the issue in a press release praising the commission’s vote. The commission’s action, he said, "moves us one step closer to reinvigorating downtown Flushing with new housing and retail options, hotel or office space, and much-needed additional parking for the area’s residents and visitors." For the mayor, it seems, making it easier to drive into a booming, dense, transit-rich downtown isn’t a violation of the principles of PlaNYC, but a neighborhood perk. 

This project, which replaces a vitality-sapping 1,100-spot surface parking lot, is very close to being, as Burden argues, a transit-oriented home run, putting hundreds of thousands of square feet of new development in one of Queens’ most walkable and transit-accessible sites. But instead, it’s going to give more space to storing private vehicles than to retail and office space combined.

Unfortunately, things aren’t likely to get any better when the project goes to City Council. Both local council members, Peter Koo and Dan Halloran, support adding even more parking to Flushing Commons. 

  • J

    Are these going to be underground parking spaces?

    My prediction: They never get filled, just like Yankee Stadium, Bronx Terminal Market, Harlem River Plaza – basically all EDC-sponsored parking projects. EDC seems to LOVE creating massive parking garages that never get filled. Good thing taxpayers help pay for them. That way we get to pay for them when they lose money. Not to mention dealing with the extra auto trips these induce. Thanks EDC!

  • lic lovr

    wow can these people get a grip or what? i mean, i try and try to figure out their movtive here but really…. WHY?!?!

  • wow can these people get a grip or what? i mean, i try and try to figure out their movtive here but really…. WHY?!?!

    Well, the politicians are responding to the pro-parking hysteria.

  • > For the mayor, it seems, making it easier to drive into a booming, dense, transit-rich downtown isn’t a violation of the principles of PlaNYC, but a neighborhood perk.

    Well, he only takes the subway to work. I bet Bloomberg has a pretty bitchin’ set(s) of wheels.

  • christine berthet

    It would all change if the developer had to pay the price of enlarging two roads for each 100 parking spaces and putting it in a transit fund.
    Hey it’s all about developers making more money for themselves and pushing the costs on the tax payers… Profit Baby!!!!

  • Danny G

    Fortunately, unused parking spaces can be converted to storage lockers pretty easily.

  • PJ

    They’ll never get filled? With 600 condos, retail stores which are projected to hire 2000 employees, and the many that already drive in and cannot find parking in that supposedly “underutilized” and “vitality-sapping” 5.5 acre lot, I beg to differ. And don’t say that the Main St NYT and LIRR stations with all of the buses are more than adequate to remove the need to drive in; such a claim would ignore the reality that parking is already scarce, a lot of gridlock already caused by people hunting for a spot. If public transit were obviously better, more people would use it; and it is not an answer for the many who drive in from Long Island and bring their money to Flushing and the city.

    Only someone that does not live in Flushing would fail to appreciate the impact of this.

  • carma

    This parking lot WILL be used to capacity. flushing is already a mess with the parking situation. to be honest, this project should have never got off the ground as flushing already is too overdeveloped with too little transit infrastucture. the buses suck. they are slow. and the 7 serving only as a terminus that doesnt reach to eastern queens prevents folks who travel from the eastern section of the brough without many other great options.

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