The rezoning of Flushing West, Queens was supposed to be a royal flush. City officials envisioned dealing a great hand for the neighborhood, a win-win for economic development and affordable housing. Residents, though, believed the plan, which would diversify the neighborhood’s composition and increase density, was a crapshoot.
In a surprise move, the city has scuttled a proposed rezoning of 11 mostly industrial blocks between the last stop on the 7 train and Flushing Creek.
City Councilman Peter Koo sent a letter to the Department of City Planning that framed his constituents’ objections to the plan, which would allow for the development of retail, open space, and affordable housing (See AN‘s coverage of the proposed rezoning here). Koo expressed concern that the area’s infrastructure wasn’t equipped to handle an influx of new residents. The to-be-rezoned parcels, he argued, are in the flight path of planes at nearby LaGuardia Airport, limiting the developments’ maximum heights. (The paths could be re-routed, but that would require federal intervention.) The city’s plans, moreover, did not address the other side of flushing: Heavy combined sewage outflow into Flushing Creek would make any waterside park very, uh, fragrant, and potentially pose a health hazard to visitors.
The same day, Carl Weisbrod, the chair of the City Planning Commission, wrote back, saying he shared Koo’s concerns and would withdraw the plan, Crain’s New York reports. The rezoning was intended to be one of 15 neighborhood rezonings that would spur the creation of affordable housing in exchange for denser development—in this case, up to 1,600 new affordable and market-rate units. Weisbrod did note that the city could revisit the proposal, if the problems Koo and the city recognized are addressed.