QUEENS CRAP ROVING REPORTER #2 -- DATELINE APRIL 1, 2010
FINAL CB7 LAND USE COMMITTEE & VOTE ON FLUSHING COMMONS
Unfortunately, it was not an April Fool’s Day gag. CB 7’s Land Use Committee wasted a whole evening to, in the end, approve every single one of the many exceptions to land use policy requested by Rockefeller/TDC (Michael Lee) and Bloomberg’s EDC. Some committee members apparently think that total capitulation gives them leverage in further negotiation with the BEEP’s office (she thinks it’s wonderful, boys) and the city (which has already shown how much it gives a crap). Yeah, like capitulation gave Czechoslovakia so much leverage with Hitler.
On the other hand, when has this community board ever voted against ANY development in downtown Flushing? Some of them complained it was too big-- a total of 69 stories and 1 million square feet-- and a couple thought the Macedonia Church affordable housing project should have been a separate vote (aaaand actually, it is! Keep reading...), but mostly they were your average lemmings.
A great deal of time was spent creating stipulations to be added to the city’s agreement with Michael Lee & Rockefeller, which recapitulated the terms of the letter by then-Deputy Mayor Doctoroff and then-Councilman Liu. Even those had some trouble being approved. One of the key conditions added in by CB7 was putting the capped parking rates back in. Rob Goldrich of the Deputy Mayor’s office assiduously took notes (or at least scribbled a lot) but of course, once he gets back to City Hall, they’ll just tear it all up, and why not, since anything a community board says is just advisory anyway.
Flushing BID chair Jim Gerson is a member of the CB7 land use committee. When Gerson raised the issue of the number of parking spaces (1,600) being less than previously agreed by John Liu and Dan Doctoroff (2,000), and also said that he had personally spoken to Liu to confirm this, committee chair Chuck Apelian told Gerson, "Liu did not tell you that", insisting that nowhere within the Liu-Doctoroff agreement are 2,000 parking spaces explicitly required for the project as presently contemplated. Apelian repeatedly insisted "that is mistaken".
Also, when Gerson later pointed out that the DEIS is predicated upon a proposed one-way Flushing traffic pattern which NYCDOT has recently decided not to implement, and that the DEIS therefore does not accurately depict the traffic conditions that will result from the Flushing Commons development, Apelian said "I don't care what an EIS says. I don't care about it. I go by my gut." So, per Apelian, it is acceptable to approve a project which generates significant adverse traffic impacts, even though there is no EIS on the record which relates to the actual conditions that relate to the proposed project.
Also, as currently proposed, rates to park will become market rates after 5 years. They are not capped in perpetuity as was to be the case under the aforementioned agreement.
And, although CitiField is to become a detour location for long term MuniLot parking, and the City's EDC representative mentioned that the rate there is $4.00/day, the fact that parking there on game days costs $19.00 was never mentioned. Drivers who divert from MuniLot 1 to CitiField are going to be in for a very rude awakening, when they discover that they will pay $19.00 to park at CitiField on game days (already an increase of more than 5% in less than a year).
Here's the real deal about the parking:
During the RFP process, the developers kept raising the # of parking spaces that they would provide, with the winner, TDC, and two others bringing it to 2,000.
The letter of agreement signed by EDC and Liu does NOT specify # of parking spaces by a definitive number, only that they had to replace the existing spaces (1,101) and add the right amount for zoning. However, a 2005 EDC press release DOES state 2,000 spaces, as well as other amenities which are now absent from the plan.
Part of the reason that it was 2,000 spaces is that the original proposal that was won by TDC had less apartments and more retail/commercial, which would have generated more required parking.
When they changed the mix - added over 100 apartments but removed several hundred thousand square feet of retail - the net loss of parking spaces correlates closely.
The problem is that they can't arbitrarily change the mix without rewriting that pesky contract.
One more thing: The topic of converting the existing YMCA into a school came up. A letter from Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber apparently addresses this, by making vague reference to a different school that is to be built as an element of another "nearby development" which the letter does not identify. During last week's committee meeting, when the letter was discussed, someone asked Bob Goldrich, representing the Deputy Mayor's office, if this different school to which the letter refers is the school that will be built at Willets Point. Goldrich appeared disturbed, as if the site of the school was not supposed to be identified at this time. He may not have explicitly answered the question, but said "A school in a development that will be nearby". I was left with the impression that EDC is saying that you don't need to convert the YMCA building into a school, because residents of Flushing Commons/Macedonia will be able to attend the school in Willets Point.
Perhaps, they will walk across the pedestrian bridge connecting downtown Flushing with Willets Point, to do this...
However, with the Willets Point project in limbo (and with the school possibly not being in "Phase One" anyway), is it prudent to rely on Flushing students attending a Willets Point school? It is likely that development of the MuniLot site will be complete (and the YMCA ready to be repurposed) long before a Willets Point school is available, if it ever is?
And what will happen when the Wilpons build on the Citifield Municipal Parking Lot, which everyone seems to forget is part of the Willets Point Redevelopment plan? Apparently the CB7 land use committee forgot to ask about that little detail.
The only three who consistently showed some spine among the jellyfish, consistently voting NO, were Yang-Hee (Sunny) Hahn, Jim Gerson and Ikwhan Rim.
Voting YES, over and over again, were Land Use chair Chuck Apelian, Arthur Barragan, Tyler Cassell, Bob LoPinto, Kim Ohanion, Millicent O’Meally, Terence Park, Lynda Spielman, Linna Yu, Raymond Chen and Gene Kelty. John Byas’s and Pablo Hernandez’ YES votes are pending legal approval, since they are with the church and the Y respectively, which might be conflicts of interest (ya think?).
Basically, just like every other moronic development decision they have made, they voted yes when they meant to vote no so as not to piss off the City. However, they are supposed to be watching out for the community, not for the government or developers. Clearly, it is time to flush the crap out of CB7 of Flushing!
CB 7 Chair Kelty vented some after the vote, complaining that once more, the city had given the board no time before the ULURP clock started counting down. Rob Goldrich gave him the classic civil servant's impassive, "screw-you" look. TDC’s Michael Meyer spent the whole evening with a shit-eating grin on his face, diddling with his...cell phone.
James McClelland, Councilman Peter Koo’s chief-of-staff, made two revealing comments. Early, he asked that the evening be short, as he had to get to confession before Holy Thursday mass: “I have a lot to confess.” When the discussion went to whether DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Maura McCarthy would try CB 7’s one-way plan if her traffic test failed, someone commented that she took her orders, after all, from Manhattan. Said McClelland, “Now she takes her orders from us.” Meaning McClelland, Dennis Gallagher, and Councilman Koo...
If the EIS is uncorrected by the time this gets to the Council, that fact alone may be a fatal flaw. But why is the City promulgating a project using an EIS that does not contain a proper traffic study? And why is CB7 not calling them out on the carpet for that? Just because the board feels the outcome is inevitable doesn't mean they can't take a stand against a bad project in their district.
Let's see how I am doing so far with my predictions from an earlier post:
- CB7 will make a long list of demands for approval...Check
- TDC will add the extra parking deck and that will be enough to placate CB7...Damn, I was wrong here. (That's how lame Chuck is as a land use chair, he couldn't even find the balls to ask for this.)
- CB7 will approve it...Check!
Now, look closely at the application status report for CB7. The Flushing Commons/Macedonia developments have a number of applications for actions that must be taken in order for this project to proceed. CB7 could vote only for Macedonia's plan by voting yes on application C100207 ZMQ (last item on page 3) for the rezone of the entire block but no on all the rest of the items before them.
Will they do that? Certainly not. They will do what they are told in order to keep their pathetic status as the "voices of Flushing". And TDC will laugh all the way to the bank.
Being psychic, this reporter predicts that on Monday, April 5, the community board as a whole will approve every detail of Flushing Commons, down the line. Usher them into the Invertebrates’ Hall of Fame.
Ah, excellent reporting by #2! This type of B.S. coming from Apelian and CB7 is nothing new, as readers of this blog know full well.
P.S. Where is Claire during all this?