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New York Post

Nolan Hicks and Sam Raskin


The next battle between Big Apple builders and anti-development activists is set over sprawling plans to redevelop Queens’s Flushing waterfront with new towers that would bring apartments, office space and hotel rooms.

Progressive activists like those who helped sink plans to reuse Brooklyn’s Industry City and Amazon’s second headquarters in Queens’s Long Island City are gearing up to fight the plan to bring as many as 13 hi-rises to an 11-block area that’s currently home to a U-Haul storage facility and parking lots.

“There was always a practice where, in general, if the local Council member supported it, his or her colleagues would get on board. What we are seeing now is there is so much pressure, whether it’s from the left or the right, the local Council member is not looked at and there are other forces coming into communities and saying, ‘Well this is not good,’ ” said Carlo Scissura, president of the New York Building Congress, lamenting he’s been seeing “a lot of NIMBYism.”

“I think clearly they are listening to only a certain section of the electorate,” he said of local politicians. “When the voices of only a narrow group are looked at, you’re going to continue to see things like Flushing, Industry City and Amazon fall apart.”

Those dozen-plus towers that developers hope to build would be home to 1,700 apartments, nearly 900 hotel rooms and 700,000 square feet of commercial space.

The City Planning Commission has already given the project the thumbs up — and so has the local community board.

But a key City Council committee vote, originally set for Nov. 18, was postponed until Monday, as progressives turned up the pressure to nix the project.

The day before the postponement a group of Council members — many of whom are eyeing Democratic primary contests in 2021 or 2022, where left-wing activists have played a decisive role in recent contests — said they were “deeply concerned” about the developers’ plans.

They argued that the developers — F&T Group, Young Nian Group and United Construction & Development Group — need to offer local residents more.

Currently, the project would set aside 61 of the proposed 1,600 apartments for rent-regulation, clean up nearby Flushing Creek and construct a 40-foot-wide esplanade to open the waterfront to the public.

“It ignores the real, urgent needs of the Flushing community,” read the statement, signed by more than 10 members of the Council. “We believe it would be irresponsible to approve the application without deep community benefits like real affordable housing and commitment to provide good jobs for local community members.”

The signees include newly-minted Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, who faces a likely primary challenge next year for the job from his former Council colleague, Jimmy Van Bramer, who has made a name for himself for his opposition to high profile projects.

“We are living in a time when we need to create jobs, we have a housing crisis … so I’m all for growth,” the real estate-backed pol recently told The Post. “But the challenge with this project as it stands is that this is not a project that is going to help communities grow. We have to have economic growth that works for everyone.”

Local Councilman Peter Koo (D-Queens) has signaled he supports the project and typically that would be enough to ensure smooth sailing, even though he has yet to formally give his blessing.

“Council Member Koo wants this project to happen,” said spokesman Scott Sieber. “We’re not quite there yet, but we’ve made some great progress, and we’re encouraged that the applicants are currently at the table community and labor groups who want to see this project become the best it can be for the Flushing with community.”

Published on

Dec 6, 2020 by New York Building Congress