FACT SHEET ON THE PARKING PLAN FOR ‘FLUSHING COMMONS’
THE BOTTOM LINE
The current development plan for Municipal Parking Lot 1 in Flushing replaces an equitable, popular and affordable public parking amenity – one owned by New York City taxpayers and heavily relied on by local businesses – with an expensive, private, for-profit system that:
a) Will likely cause major small-business closings and job losses;
b) Violates a signed Letter of Agreement between the Mayor’s Office and the City Council;
c) Offers the public inadequate safeguards in case of developer or bank default.
- Flushing is a major transit hub consisting of three principal modes: municipal parking, bus lines, and subway service.
- As a direct result of its excellent parking amenity and ample transportation, Flushing is thriving as a commercial center for a great many small businesses in northern Queens.
- Municipal Lot 1 (“Lot 1”) is a 5-acre, 1,101-space parking facility in downtown Flushing that was built in 1954 as a public amenity, owned and operated by the City of New York.
- Lot 1 is priced well below market rates specifically to encourage commercial activity; rates currently are 25 cents per 15 minutes, and $4 for daily parkers. Flushing’s businesses are dependent on this kind of plentiful, affordable public parking.
- There is no preferential parking or ‘validation’ available – all visitors pay the same for parking, regardless of the purpose of their trip or which business they patronize.
- The City of New York has agreed to sell Lot 1 to a developer who intends to build a mixed-use development (‘Flushing Commons’) -- and privatize the parking concession.
- The developer’s stated plan is to increase parking rates substantially (after a temporary ‘cap’ period).
- The City is deeding the land to the developer, meaning that there will no longer be any guarantee of public access to that parking lot, let alone any guarantees on rates.
- The developer will introduce a ‘validation’ system – under which local businesses will likely be forced to pay for at least part of their patrons’ parking fees or lose business to other business areas.
- The developer has recently reduced the number of planned parking spaces by 400 spaces (25%) from the original plan proposed to the community.
- In 2005, then-Deputy Mayor Daniel L. Doctoroff of the Bloomberg administration signed a Letter of Agreement regarding Lot 1 with John Liu, then-Councilman for Flushing.
- The Letter specified that any City-sanctioned development of Lot 1 must include:
- At least 2000 publicly-available parking spaces.
- A cap on parking rates at agreed prices in perpetuity, adjusted for inflation.
- The current developer’s plan for Flushing Commons is clearly in violation of the Letter of Agreement, and the NYC Economic Development Corporation has admitted this.
- It is impossible to miss the substantial number of idled building sites across the City of New York OR the recent foreclosure of Stuyvesant Town.
- The common ingredient is the difficult financing environment and/or the failure of banks and other financing entities.
- The City has failed to build in assurances that – should Flushing Commons lose financing or fail to complete construction on time – taxpayers can get back their land.
- Loss of adequate, competitively-priced parking will very likely lead to serious job losses and small-business closings in Downtown Flushing.
- A ‘validation’ system will amount to a new tax imposed on small business in Flushing,as they will be compelled to subsidize customer/client parking to remain competitive.
- After the sale, as things stand now the developer will legally be entitled to deny parking to local businesses in favor of his own tenants, or charge non-tenants higher rates.
- Under the current very loose agreement, financing issues or a default once construction has begun could result in Flushing’s businesses losing access to Lot 1 indefinitely.
6. WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
The following steps are the minimum necessary to safeguard the commercial viability of Flushing:
- Parking rates should be limited to current municipal rates, adjusted for inflation, or no more than the rates originally negotiated with the Deputy Mayor.
- The developer should be required to provide at least 2,000 publicly-available parking spaces, as originally negotiated with the community
- There should be no preferential parking rates for tenants or clients of tenants in the new development.
- The above should be strictly enforced (such as by the DOT or Comptroller) including an easement on the land transfer and significant sanctions if there is non-compliance.
- There should be substantial penalties for failure to complete the project in a timely fashion, up to and including forfeiture of the land.
This Fact Sheet was prepared by OPEN FLUSHING (in formation), a coalition of merchants, individuals, property owners and groups, including REDO and many others.
Click here for a position paper from REDO.