QUEENS, N.Y. - The stretch of empty lots along the Flushing Creek waterfront is quiet for now.
But developers envision more than 1,700 apartments, 900 hotel rooms and retail space.
In February, Community Board 7 voted 30 to eight in favor of rezoning the area.
That decision was not without protest. In March, acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee rejected the application as is, saying she was concerned the development would displace long-time residents. Her recommendations included more affordable housing, and a location for a school.
In June, several community groups sued to stop the development. This week, they took to the streets, protesting the rezoning and calling on City Councilman Peter Koo to reject the plan.
When the coronavirus crisis hit, the public review process was halted for six months - until the Planning Commission held a virtual Uniform Land Use Review Procedure or ULURP hearing Wednesday.
“The ULURP process is flawed to begin with, but the fact that we are doing this virtually, when so many of our community members don’t have access to internet or are not computer literate to navigate this process, makes it so much harder to get them involved,” said William Spisak, the director of Housing Justice for CHHAYA.
Technical difficulties aside, dozens voiced their concerns about the waterfront district.
“It’s not just an immense amount of traffic congestion, and the loss of local residents and small businesses, but you’re talking about impacts on one of the most polluted waterways in the city,” said John Choe, the executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.
In a statement, FWRA LLC. the group of developers spearheading the project, said, “our community was one of the first and hardest hit when the pandemic reached New York City and we are still feeling its effects. We need jobs. We need tax revenues. We need an economic stimulus that advances Flushing and expresses the forward-thinking nature of our community….This project is the answer to moving Flushing forward."
After the Planning Commission votes on the rezoning, it will go before the City Council for approval. As the local Councilman, Koo's vote could be decisive in determining its fate. Will he support it? He has not responded to our request for comment.