QUEENS CRAP ROVING REPORTER -- DATELINE: MARCH 22, 2010 - CB7 PUBLIC HEARING
So you folks are probably wondering by now exactly what the hell happened at the Flushing Commons hearing on Monday night. It was an exhausting experience which kept me out of the house until the wee hours of Tuesday morning, so it took me awhile to regroup my thoughts to write this.
First of all, the room that this hearing was held in was way too small - the activities room of a nursing home on Union Street. More than half the people in attendance were forced to stand for hours. It was crowded and felt like a sauna due to the humidity. Down the road stand both Flushing High School and Flushing Town Hall. An auditorium would have been a more appropriate venue for this event, which was expected to draw a large crowd. But this site was chosen intentionally to make attendees uncomfortable and discourage public participation. This was perfectly clear.
TDC’s presenter, Michael Meyers, spoke like a smarmy, insulting dolt. His female assistant at one point flipped the bird to a political cartoonist when she vainly assumed that he was trying to take her photo. (He wasn’t and didn’t even know she had done that until he was told afterward by spectators.) I hope someone caught that despicable display on film because it represents the contempt that this organization has for Flushing and its people.
Meyers basically spoke as though this was a done deal, that presenting and answering questions was a waste of his time, and that the people against any aspect of the plan were a pain in his ass. During his presentation, he said there could be more parking added to the project but that their analysis showed that it wasn’t required, spoke some nonsense about how "stackers" were going to be employed to take care of the cars, and that people who own condo units would be guaranteed parking in the lot, but not a dedicated space. So when you go to work, your space can be rented out to a transient shopper until you get home. None of this gobbledygook made any sense but he compared it to the situation at the Museum of Natural History.
The most unintentionally revealing statement coming from Meyers was, “TDC is also involved with the Willets Point project.” In case you had any doubt about who was going to land that cash cow, you now have it straight from the horse’s mouth.
Some of the elderly people who had been standing during the three hour farce looked like they were going to pass out. Then the Flushing YMCA and Macedonia AME Church presented their proposals.
TDC’s ace in the hole is the fact that their zoning change has been linked to the Macedonia AME Church’s application [see #C100207 ZMQ on page 3] to build affordable housing on their property. In other words, you can’t vote for one without voting the same way for the other. And if you vote against a black church with a centuries-long history in the community, that had their land taken away via eminent domain decades ago and a parking lot built on top of their cemetery, then you are going to look like a major league asshole. No one at the hearing expressed any concern whatsoever about the church’s project. Everyone who had an objection only had it with TDC. (There is a way to get Macedonia's project through but not TDCs. But I will save that explanation for a later post.)
Peter Koo spoke (from index cards written by Dennis Gallagher) about how he can’t imagine voting against this project when so many people are out of work. He also claimed it would become the crown jewel of the community. How a condo tower with chain store retail at the bottom, without the promised movie theater, bookstore or business hotel and with a crowded central green could become a crown jewel of any community was lost on most attendees. But when you’re best friends with the owner of the development company you tend to see his projects through rose-colored glasses.
Councilman Dan Halloran spoke about how he was in favor of development at the site, but screamed that since TDC admitted they could build another deck of parking, THEN THEY SHOULD JUST DO IT. He received rousing applause.
The first member of the public did not get to step up to the podium until after 11pm. Surprisingly, most of the attendees stayed until the end.
There was a large group of people, mostly Korean merchants from Union and other streets, who were opposed to the project because of what it is expected to do to their businesses. Jim Gerson, head of the Flushing BID, expressed similar concerns. The Koreans held up protest signs and spoke passionately about how they worked day and night to make their businesses prosper and now this bad plan was being forced upon them without any assurances that it won’t negatively impact them. The truth is that this plan will most likely destroy them. But I got the impression that this is by design. This seems to be developing into a “Chinese vs. Korean” fight (choose your side). The Chinese are trying to throw out the newcomers and keep Flushing Chinese. Sounds familiar, eh?
And of course, also testifying were union members with their sob stories about being out of work. One of the supposedly unemployed members pulled out an ultrasound photo of what was supposedly his unborn child. Predictably, the unions booed and tried to intimidate anyone who didn’t say they supported the project. (They really should get some new shtick.) They seem to have no problem putting other people out of work so long as they have theirs.
Of course, the members of the Macedonia church also came out in full force in favor of the project.
Myra Baird Herce handed out a support letter allegedly from the Flushing Chamber of Commerce. The Flushing Chamber’s website was sold to Flushing, IL years ago and the letterhead she used for her testimony listed people who were dead or out of business, like Genovese Pharmacy, Gloria’s Pizza, etc., so I have to wonder who makes up the Chamber these days. Wait let me guess – Peter Koo, Terence Park and TDC? Herce is a pathetic leftover from the Manes administration and really needs to be put out to pasture already.
Terence Park, after being exposed on this blog, asked “tough” questions during the CB questioning of Meyers, but when it was time for the public hearing portion of the night, couldn’t say enough about how great the project was, screaming with the fervor of a minister. Pretty funny, considering the Korean Press wouldn't even come to his press conference the same day. “Flushing needs to move forward” was his mantra.
The most eloquent speaker was Flushing resident Cheshire Frager, who pointed out that TDC would be making millions off the project on public property, with tax abatements, while not being forced to pay into the school, sewer, or electrical systems or to upgrade transportation. Basically, it’s a public land giveaway to a private developer with limited public benefit.
No one, with the exception of Willets Point United’s traffic analyst, Brian Ketcham, even made mention of how this project will help bring Flushing traffic to a standstill and bring bus travel through the area closer to an impossibility. He spoke near the very end of the evening and ended his testimony with, "In the absence of any revised and corrected DEIS, Community Board 7 lacks the necessary information on which to base any approval of the Flushing Commons Project, and in that case must reject the application."
The final speaker didn’t finish until well after midnight.
The entire hearing was a sham, an insult and an embarrassment to the people of this city.
Two days later, Dennis Gallagher’s consulting company was pumping out a media advisory about a press conference with Koo and Queens DOT Commissioner Maura McCarthy about the Flushing traffic plan. (Of course, the advisory has the name of James McClelland on it, who has denied an affiliation with Pinky, yet they just coincidentally both happen to work for all the same clients.)
Whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing for Flushing, Queens, or the City as whole, the fact of the matter is that a contract was signed back in 2005 between then-Council Member John Liu (representing Flushing) and then-Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff (representing the City) for 2,000 below market rate parking spaces, a movie theater, bookstore and other amenities. These things would have actually brought more business to the Korean merchants. The development was dead for 3 years. Now that John Liu is out of office and TDC needs to prove competence in order to sink its teeth into the Willets Point project, the City has given its blessing for TDC to come forward with a plan that meets none of these criteria.
CB7 will make a long list of demands for approval. TDC will add the extra parking deck and that will be enough to placate CB7, and they will approve it. Then it will sail through the rest of the ULURP process. Just like Willets Point.
The reneging on the agreement and lack of transparency mean that this is likely to end up in court and won’t be built for years, if at all. Just like Willets Point.
Will a knight on a white horse ride in this time to save the day?
Johnny Liu, where are you?