Council, EDC Spend $3 Million to Keep Parking Cheap at Flushing Commons

Q14_Bus.pngThe now-defunct Q14 bus didn’t get a reprieve from the City Council, which decided money was better spent on encouraging people to drive. Photo: dj.surf.lfs/Flickr

The Flushing Commons development sailed to a 44-2 vote of approval in the City Council yesterday after the city arranged a set of concessions to local merchants who had opposed the project. Chief among them: $3 million to keep the project’s oversized parking lot even cheaper. 

The Economic Development Corporation had already set aside $2.25 million to help Downtown Flushing’s many small businesses stay afloat during the mega-project’s construction. Many merchants remained opposed to the project, however, arguing that by replacing the municipal parking lot currently on the site, Flushing Commons would keep customers away and drive them out of business.

In response, the city added another $3.75 million to its relief package, $3 million of which will subsidize driving and automobile storage. The money will be used to offer free and discounted parking while Flushing Commons is under construction and to extend a cap on parking prices in the development’s 1,600-space garage for an additional two years. 

In other words, a city which ostensibly has a policy to reduce traffic, PlaNYC, has sunk another $3 million to subsidize the use of 1,600 parking spaces in one of the most transit-rich downtowns in the city. We often write about how parking minimums function as a hidden city subsidy for motorists, but this is a signed check made out to the minority of New Yorkers who drive.

That’s a scandal in its own right, but then remember that at no point in the run-up to the MTA’s service cuts did the mayor or the City Council chip in a little extra.

What else could Flushing have gotten for $3 million in city support? A reprieve from all MTA service cuts, for one thing. Discontinuing the Q14, X32, and X51, along with cutting off-peak service on the Q26 and Q48, saved the MTA a total of $3.1 million this year.

Budgets make government priorities perfectly clear. City Council and EDC had a choice of how to spend $3 million to help bring people to Flushing. They chose cheap parking. 

  • Boris

    Can you not put articles like these out on Fridays? I want to cry.

  • And the subsidy marches on. Only one thing can stop it. A mass campaign for free public transit.

  • joshua

    I studied this plan at queens college for 6 months. If you had no parking here, the Korean and Chinese small businesses would be out of work. Please stop looking at only one issue within a vast complex and determine what is unsustainable and/or corrupt, wasteful. The fact is most businesses rely on the existing parking lot to survive-

  • joshua

    One more thing, at every community meeting about the project, the people at those meetings didnt care about OPEN SPACE, public transportation or anything else. They consistently brought up parking. If you want to change things, go down to the community boards, then speak with members of the community and try to change their minds about an issue. DOnt blindly blame the city. They are a reflection of what the people want.

  • Please elaborate, Joshua. I’d love to know how you were able to prove that the Korean and Chinese businesses would be out of work.

  • joshua

    The local chinese and korean business interests rely upon that lot for its’ customers. Many of of the people who shop in the are come from out East not towards the city. The far easiest way to get here from that direction is to drive. The Flushing Commons project states in its original plan that one of its’ major goals is to attract customers out east. Both the large interests and small are on the same page on this.
    The small businesses use the lots to park the delivery trucks. They need the subsidized parking to help them maintain their economic viability. It was the ONLY thing they cared about at the community board meetings. They didnt mention bikes, open space, public transit. Our group was actually focused on increasing open space within the project and suggesting a closed street on 138th to enhance pedestrian traffic to and from the subway7lirr

  • ChrisCo

    “I studied this plan at queens college for 6 months. If you had no parking here, the Korean and Chinese small businesses would be out of work. Please stop looking at only one issue within a vast complex and determine what is unsustainable and/or corrupt, wasteful. The fact is most businesses rely on the existing parking lot to survive-”

    Nonsense.

    People drive there and park BECAUSE there is so much dirt cheap parking. If there were no parking people would get there by other means. People aren’t going to stop being consumers because they can no longer park for dirt cheap.

  • Ian Turner

    Joshua,

    I’d invite you to share you studies in more detail. Rather than just making assertions, please explain the complete rationale.

    I’m curious how your research interacts with the changes in Copehangen detailed in this video:
    http://www.streetfilms.org/copenhagens-car-free-streets-and-slow-speed-zones/

    Cheers,

    –Ian

  • joshua gelfand

    First Chris, studies have shown that people WILL stop going there if the parking isn’t cheap. Not all people are commuters, (though some are) and most of them will be rerouted to the Citifield lot anyway. The businesses are deathly afraid of the impact on their livelihoods and with good reason. And Chris, the businesses need a place to park their trucks as well. Many of these businesses make deliveries. And, for the many white/asian people who come into the area for Chinese food, they will not go if parking is 12 or 15 an hour. In Queens, bikes are nice, but the sprawl has made a family bike trip for dinner from say Bayside to Flushing a bit implausible. Put a train on Northern Boulevard and then we’ll talk

    Ian,

    the bigger problem with Flushing Commons is actually what’s happening above ground, not below. They are creating 5 huge buildings which do very little for the public realm and do nothing for affordable housing. They are meant to attract Asian internationals who want a base in New York much like Sky View Parc. Many of the parking spaces are reserved for people who buy condos, then many more are being reserved for the police department across the street, then some for the citizens of the Methodist Church which will still inhabit space on the lot. Your agenda is somewhat misdirected because it really only addresses a byproduct of the problem. Their is very little open space in the project (actually no public space) and the whole thing has been engineered to increase shopping from one project (commons) to Queens Crossing across the street. If you guys on this site really have a problem, it should have been addressed to the developers or the city long ago or gone to a community board meeting. The lot is the logical conclusion for developers who want to make more money from their condos by selling a section of the parking spaces along with the place. I guess the point is that the problems with this project go far beyond the parking lot, which is annoying to me considering how much time my group was focused on turning the attention to public space. If you wanted to do something about it, support Professor Moore at Queens College who is trying to uncover a graveyard underneath the whole site. It could slow the project up for years if they find anything.

  • Ian Turner

    Joshua,

    Your agenda is somewhat misdirected because it really only addresses a byproduct of the problem

    I don’t have an “agenda”, so please don’t make assumptions.

    studies have shown that people WILL stop going there if the parking isn’t cheap

    the whole thing has been engineered to increase shopping from one project

    Citations?

    With respect to the lack of public space, I think most folk here are in favor of more of it — look at the response to the Times Square changes. That said, it’s not obvious (at least not to me) why any particular development should be charged with creating new open space or affordable housing. That said, if the city is providing subsidies (as it is) then it should also expect some of these sorts of concessions in return.

    That parking spaces might be occupied by residents, police, or churchgoers doesn’t really change the well-documented fact that more parking and cheaper parking will draw in more cars, more traffic, more congestion, more noise, and more pollution. As a city we’ve decided that we want to reduce these things, so the fact that the city is going to subsidize more parking, especially at the expense of public transit, really is an outrage.

    For more information on the relationship between parking and traffic, I recommend “The high cost of free parking”, by Donald Shoup.

    Cheers,

    –Ian

  • joshua gelfand

    with respect,
    I’m well read on the high cost of increased traffic and don’t generally advocate it and I also agree that nyc has better things to be spending money on at the moment.
    As far as the housing, when a new development arises that potentially will alter the face of a neighborhood, the existing tenants and workers should be given some kind of assurances that their livelihoods wont be completely uprooted to benefit a private developer. Again, this is what most people in the AREA want. Councilman Koo wants more parking because his constituents want more parking, the community board wants more parking because the people they represent want more parking, the developers want more parking and the city wants the new high tax revenue generated by the high priced owners and tenants on the new property. If you dont want more parking you actually make the housing affordable, so more people who cant afford cars are forced to find alternatives. As far as the police, they simply need police cars because they cant get to northern queens on a bike.

    Here is the councilman’s view
    http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/queens/2010/03/24/2010-03-24_councilmens_voices_rise_above_din_at_parking_hearing.html

    within the article are examples on how the community feels
    ex:
    He told audience members – some of whom waved signs with messages like, “Give us parking or give us death!” –

    Go on, try telling a community that champions cars as status symbols, relies on the lots for business survival, and threatens to roll down on the pavement if there isn’t enough subsidized parking that they can no longer park. They’l vote Koo right out of office.

    At one com board meeting, the entire 3 hours was dedicated to the issue of parking,
    not transportation alternatives, not green space, not sustainable livling
    just boring ol parking.

    what might be bad or bad for the environment is unfortunately what the people want. Extreme liberalism tries to tell others what their community concerns should be. I dont live there. Maybe you do, then you really have the position to be an advocate.

  • Ian Turner

    Joshua,

    I like how when I asked for details all your “studies” and “research” disappeared and was replaced with “well, this is what the community wants”. Still doesn’t mean the city should blow $3,000,000 on it.

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