Friday, December 9, 2011
An open letter to Peter Koo
Dear Councilmember Koo,
In a story that ran on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 on Fox 5 News, Ashley Mastronardi reported on the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association's (BFHA) efforts to receive New York City Landmark Historic District status for their neighborhood. Broadway-Flushing has already been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, with over 1,300 properties within its boundaries.
BFHA has spent significant time and capital in our quest to further protect our neighborhood from overdeveloopment, which we consider landmarking to do. Over 85% of the residents in Broadway-Flushing are in favor of designation and every elected official that represents our neighborhood has supported us, including former Councilmember and now State Senator Tony Avella, former State Senator Frank Padavan; Assemblymember Rory Lancman; Councilmember Dan Hallloran; and Borough President Helen Marshall. Community Board 7 voted twice - unanimously - to support landmarking of our neighborhood in both 2005 and 2009.
Which brings us to the point: your staff member, James McClelland, was interviewed at your constituent office (with you in attendance at some point as was shown on Fox 5 News) for this particular story. Mr. McClelland first stated that "he is against turning the neighborhood into a historical district because development is inevitable and good for the community." He also stated that "it's tough to legislate good taste or what you think is good taste...they bought the house, they paid the mortgage and unless it's, you know, mandated by some kind of city code, they should be able to do what they want."
We are extremely confused as to why he should make this statement when A) when you were a member of Community Board 7, you voted both times to support the creation of a Broadway-Flushing Landmarked Historic District; and more importantly B) BROADWAY-FLUSHING IS NOT LOCATED IN YOUR COUNCIL DISTRICT, NOR HAS IT EVER BEEN.
Councilmember Koo: There are over 100 historic districts in New York City. Very few of them are in Queens and none are located in Flushing, not because those neighborhoods don't deserve it, but because of politics and opposition from some of the residents who live there.
We know that we have a fantastic neighborhood or we would not have been able to receive National Register of Historic Places status already. We know that even with landmarking, new development will take place. Landmarking does not freeze neighborhoods like a fly in amber, it merely helps to protect what is considered architecturally or historically important and makes sure that new development fits in better with the existing neighborhood. That is why a supermajority of our members and residents of Broadway-Flushing are in favor of it.
While we support your right to your freedom of speech and your opinions, we are disturbed by your opposition to something that has overwhelming support from the residents and property owners of Broadway-Flushing and the elected officials who represent us and that you yourself had previously supported as a member of our community board. We are also very concerned that your office is commenting negatively on an issue that is geographically outside your district that is supported by your fellow Councilmember who represents our area. Finally,we are outraged that your staff member would state these opinions on a network television news program without identifying your office as NOT representing our neighborhood.
Mel Siegel, President
Broadway-Flushing Homeowners' Association