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RESPONSE TO DRAFT SCOPE OF WORK

FOR AN ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT


FLUSHING WEST REZONING PROPOSAL
CEQR NO. 16DCP045Q
Submitted by Council Member Peter Koo
December 2, 2015

INTRODUCTION
The neighborhood of Flushing, Queens has had a long and rich history. Founded in 1645,
Flushing was the first permanent settlement in Queens, and is often seen as the birthplace of
religious freedom. In the 1980s, a wave of immigration transformed the community and today,
more than half of our residents were born outside of the United States. In recent years, our
population and economy have continue to grow, and Flushing has become a destination of
choice for many tourists, small businesses, developers, and families.
The Flushing West Rezoning Proposal would build upon Flushings success and could
potentially bring Flushings downtown all the way to the Flushing Creek. It is clear that the
Department of City Planning has put a great deal of work into the proposed zoning for the study
area, taking into account the large parcels, waterfront access, FAA height limits, and the need for
commercial parking. This proposed zoning could result in much better urban design compared
with the current zoning. However, before we can move forward, we must take into account the
context of the proposed rezoning and what currently existsor doesnt exist.
My number one priority is making sure that there are enough investments in housing,
schools, infrastructure, transit, and environmental remediation to meet the needs of present and
future Flushing residents. Better zoning is only one piece of the planning process. Unlike many
other neighborhoods, Flushing is already full of people and private real estate investment. The
challenge in this neighborhood is not getting the market to invest, but making sure that
investmentsespecially capital investmentsmeet the needs of the community.

Analysis Framework
I am concerned that the analysis framework, as presented in the scope of work, does not
present a realistic no-action condition. The no-action condition predicts 293,600 square feet of
hotel development and 2,612,203 square feet of residential development. The with-action
scenario actually predicts an increase in hotel development with 303,847 square feet of hotel
space.
There are three major recent hotel developments in the rezoning area, and the Department
of City Planning in its presentations has stressed that the C4-2 zoning incentivizes hotel

development over residential development this is one of the justifications for the rezoning to the
proposed C4-4A. If this is the case, then why does the no-action condition have such a small
amount of hotel development when compared with residential development, particularly in light
of all the recent hotel developments in the area?
We need to reexamine the analysis framework and create a more accurate no-action
condition and assumes much lower levels of residential development absent a rezoning. If we fail
to undertake this more conservative analysis the no-action to with-action increment will be
unrealistically small and mitigation will not be sufficient to address the needs of the new
residents.
Flushing Creek
We need a real plan for the remediation of Flushing Creek. Bringing Flushing downtown
to the Creek sounds nice, but putting new residents next to a polluted waterway might be a
challenge. Dealing with the Creek means not only developing green infrastructure for the future
and disinfecting CSO outfalls, but also reducing CSO volumes and mitigating the current state of
the creek.
Affordable and Senior Housing
I expect the administration to develop a comprehensive housing plan that addresses all
levels of income, especially low and middle incomes, as well as senior housing. Flushing needs
much more affordable housing, particularly affordable senior housing. The administrations
Mandatory Inclusionary Housing tool could be an important tool for the community. Mandatory
Inclusionary Housing is only one piece of the puzzle, as the incomes that MIH target may not
adequately match the wide variety of incomes found in downtown Flushing. Many people in
Flushing simply cant afford MIH as currently proposed. Senior housing is also very important.
Schools and Childcare
Education is also a major priority. Since coming to office I have spent almost $16 million
of my member funds on schools. However, Flushings schools are overcrowded today. According
to School Construction Authority data, 85% of Community School District 25 students are in
overcrowded schools, with over 6,400 new seats needed. When new residential development is
proposed, school capacity needs to be seriously considered.
Subway Access
Like current residents, many new residents will take the subway. The Flushing Main
Street subway station is hard to enter and exit, especially during rush hour. While the MTA
capital budget has proposed some improvements to the station, the biggest need is for more
entrances and wider stairwells.
Bus Transit Center
The subway is only one part of the problem. The intersection of Main Street and
Roosevelt is the third busiest intersection in New York City, after Times and Herald Squares.
With close to 30 bus lines in Flushing, our community suffers from terrible congestion from
buses and passengers, leading to roads and sidewalks that can be dangerous. Downtown Flushing
has experienced three pedestrian deaths in just over a month, which shows how dangerous the
situation is. This is why Flushing needs a Bus Transit Center. I am happy that DCP is creating
zoning that will support a Bus Transit Center in the rezoning area and that the MTA will conduct
a study on locating a Bus Transit Center in the area. These efforts need to result in real action.
Road Quality
However, getting buses and passengers off the street is only one part of the solution. The

roads and sidewalks in downtown Flushing are in very poor condition. This is a major priority of
mine. Since taking office I have spent $800,000 of my member funds on improving streets. Bus
traffic, current development, and ease of access to many major roads and highways have resulted
in many heavy vehicles on our streets. The scope of work needs to take into account this traffic,
the type of traffic, and the need for road resurfacing and reconstruction.
Again, I am excited to be part of this process, and I look forward to working with the
community and with the administration to make sure that this neighborhood plan fully addresses
the communitys needs.

What follows are comments on specific areas of the Scope of Work where analysis may be need
to be expanded or modified to take local conditions into account.
Analysis Framework
The analysis framework calculations of the no-action condition may be problematic. The
no-action condition (Table 1a) may be underestimating hotel development, particularly when
compared to the with-action condition. The no-action condition predicts 293,600 square feet of
hotel development and 2,612,203 square feet of residential development. The with-action
scenario actually predicts an increase in hotel development with 303,847 square feet of hotel
space.
Public statements by Department of City Planning representatives have pointed to the
existing C4-2 zoning as a major cause of overbuilding of hotels in Flushing when compared with
new residential construction. Furthermore, such statements have projected that the rezoning area
will continue to see overbuilding of hotels until the zoning is changed. The 2014 CEQR
Technical Manual requires that a no action analysis take into account the amount and type of
recent as-of-right development in the area as well as recent real estate trends in the area when
conducting an analysis of soft site development. Recent developments in the area include major
hotel developments that are taking advantage of advantageous commercial FARs and parking
requirements in the C4-2 zoning. New projects inside the rezoning area with major hotel
components include the following: One Fulton Square, which has a 200-room hotel; Two Fulton
Square, with a 240-room hotel; and the Parc Hotel, which has 96 rooms.
Fixing this problem with C4-4A zoning has been proposed as a way to diminish hotel
development, as C4-4A, when combined with MIH, will incentivize mixed-income development.
If this is the case, why does the scope state that the with-action condition will actually increase
hotel development? If the new zoning will do what DCP is publicly saying that it will do, then
perhaps the no-action condition overestimates residential development and under-estimates hotel
development?
A more conservative measure of no-action soft site development is required so that a
comparison to the with-action condition can better predict the residential development increment.
The rezoning is, after all, designed to push the market towards building residential and away from
building hotels. A change in analysis framework will then change every analysis within the scope.
Description of the Proposed Actions
For several of the waterfront parcels in the study area, the proposed zoning calls for more
floor area than can be accommodated without height limit waivers from the Federal Aviation
Administration and the Port Authority. While the scope of work includes analyzing the effects of
development that has received such height limit waivers, we need to know whether it is realistic
to expect that such parcels will actually receive height limit waivers.
Additionally, as the below map indicates, the median incomes for the census tracts in
downtown Flushing range from 16% to 61% of Area Median Income for a household of four, and

18% to 68% of Area Median Income for a household of three. Mandatory Inclusionary Housing
needs to be complemented by a meaningful housing plan from HPD to address these low
incomes. Additionally, middle-income and senior housing needs to be included in such a housing
plan. Flushing households tend to be intergenerational, and senior housing needs to be provided
so that three generations do not have to share the same unit.

Task 3. Socioeconomic Conditions


Direct Business Displacement
The study area is home to small manufacturing businesses and building supply stores. It
is important to study exactly what may be displaced by the proposed actions in order to develop
alternatives that minimize displacement or provide effective relocation strategies. Employees of
these businesses must also be taken into consideration as these businesses are often trade specific
and their employees may have language barriers affecting their chances of employment outside of
the trade.
The construction of large-scale developments in my district has also demonstrated that
small businesses are often impacted by development. Small businesses are the backbone of
Flushings local economy and the recent recession, along with rising rents, saw the closure of
many long-term small businesses in downtown Flushing. Large-scale construction has
exacerbated this situation by limiting customer parking, blocking access to businesses, and adding
to the existing traffic congestion in downtown Flushing.

As a small business owner myself, I believe in making and preserving opportunities for
small business owners, and I encourage the administration to think creatively about how existing
small businesses could be accommodated and supported within the neighborhood plan.

Task 4. Community Facilities and Services


Schools
According to 2014-2015 enrollment figures from the Department of Education,
Community School District 25 enrollment is already at 122% of target capacity. Furthermore,
85% of the districts students are in overcrowded schools. School District 25 needs an additional
3,799 elementary school seats to relieve the burden, and overcrowded middle and high schools
need an additional 2,614 seats, without the addition of a single dwelling unit from either as-ofright development or the Flushing West rezoning. Regardless of the environmental analysis, the
education infrastructure in Flushing is clearly over capacity.
Meanwhile, this scope of work will not even study high schools because of the number of
projected increased dwelling units (938) falls under the threshold in the CEQR manual (1,068).
As discussed above, the analysis framework needs to better determine the no-action condition, as
a more accurate analysis framework may show that an analysis of high schools is required.
Additionally, a new analysis of the no-action condition may show that the increment between noaction and with-action is a larger number of dwelling units, requiring a greater number of
elementary school seats to mitigate.
Police
The 109th Police Precinct is one the largest precinct in terms of land mass covered. The
precinct needs more resources to meet not only current demand, but also potential demand as a
result of development. While the RWCDS has not triggered a detailed analysis of the potential
impact on police and fire stations, I urge the administration to consider the existing need and to
mitigate it as part of this process.

Task 5. Open Space


I am pleased about the inclusion of open space for the community through the waterfront
access plan. As new developments are certified, I urge the commission to require appropriate
landscape architecture, including appropriate benches and trees, along the waterfront to meet the
needs of the community members, especially seniors.
Looking beyond the study area, our problem is not a lack of open space, but rather a lack
of high quality open space. Flushing Meadows Corona Park borders downtown Flushing, and is a
major resource for the community, but the eastern entrance to the park is uninviting and lacking.
Playing fields are under-utilized because they tend to be bare earth and pathways inside of the
park are in desperate need of replacement. The administration should explore ways to enhance
access to this park.

Task 9. Natural Resources


At present this scope of work is focused on impact of development on natural resources,
but perhaps a better framework would be the impact of the currently degraded natural resources
on potential development.
The Department of Environmental Protection has developed a Long Term Control Plan
that relies on green infrastructure development along with disinfection of Combined Sewer
Overflow (CSO) outfalls. However, it will take years for enough green infrastructure to be

developed to have a material impact on the CSO problem, and in the meantime the rezoning will
allow more residential development adjacent to the Creek. We need to think creatively about
solutions to clean up the creek in its current state and potentially accelerate the installation of
green infrastructure in the area. Additionally, we need additional CSO storage capacity to reduce
the volume of CSO entering the Creek during rain events.
DEP needs to a key partner in any planning work being done along the Creek.

Task 10. Hazardous Materials


Former industrial waterfront areas are frequently contaminated, and it is a priority of
mine that residential development only occur on sites that have been properly studied for
environmental contamination and, if necessary, mitigated. I urge DCP to take great care in its
testing of such sites to make sure that future residents can be confident that their housing is free
from contamination.

Task 14. Transportation


Traffic
The scope of work includes a study of surface transportation capacity, but nowhere is
road surface quality addressed. Additional construction vehicles will further degrade the roadbed
and surface, and such impacts need to be included in the scope so that mitigation can occur.
Flushings roads are already in a degraded condition, and this rezoning should not exacerbate the
problem.
I would also like to add the following intersections to the study area:
Union Street and 37th Avenue
Union Street and 38th Avenue
Union Street and 39th Avenue
Union Street and 41st Avenue
Union Street and Sanford Avenue
36th Road and Bud Place
College Point Boulevard and 41st Road
College Point Boulevard and Maple Avenue
Northern Boulevard Service Road and Collins Place (Westbound)
Kissena Boulevard and Sanford Avenue
Kissena Boulevard and Maple Avenue
Additionally, the congestion in downtown Flushing is already severe because of queuing
buses and passengers; this needs to be remedied by getting the buses and passengers off the street
with a Bus Transit Center.
Transit
It is very important that the presence of a Bus Transit Center is being studied as an
alternative in the scope of work. MTAs study is the next step in this process, and I look forward
to the conclusion of this study and the allocation of capital dollars to actually build the center.
The Flushing Main Street subway station during rush hour is severely overcrowded. A
2011 report by the New York State Comptrollers Office lists the Main Street Flushing subway
station as the busiest station outside of Manhattan, and the tenth-busiest in the system. New
residents in the area will likely take the subway to get to work, and this will exacerbate the
existing subway congestion. We need more frequent train service to accommodate the number of
current and future riders, especially during rush hour. In addition, while the MTA capital budget

has proposed some unspecified improvements to the station, the biggest need is for more
entrances and wider stairwells.
Pedestrians
Downtown Flushings sidewalks are already severely overcrowded, and crossing the
street can be a hazardous experience. The NYC DOT has recognized the intersection of Main
Street and Roosevelt Avenue as the second busiest pedestrian intersection in New York City, and
third busiest overall. The current scope of work calls for a study of pedestrian volumes and levels
of service. This scope should include a study of pedestrian safety and potential mitigation
measures in line with recent transportation work across the city that has used design measures to
enhance pedestrian safety.
Parking
One of the biggest complaints I hear from constituents is the lack of affordable parking.
The development of two municipal lots (#1 also known as Flushing Commons, and #3 also
known as One Flushing) has severely limited the number of affordable parking spaces. The recent
implementation of Select Bus Service has also further limited the number of on street parking
spaces available. Furthermore, the development of municipal lot #2, which shares a border with
the rezoning area, is under consideration. The lack of affordable parking has resulted in vehicles
circling for hours in downtown Flushing looking for space, and adding to the traffic. The plan
should include adjustments to the on street parking system to ensure a constant supply of
affordable parking on street spaces.

Task 15. Air Quality


The current scoping already accounts for emissions from industrial plants and traffic,
however, the rezoning area is adjacent to several cement plants. Furthermore, the proposed site is
in under the current flight path of LaGuardia Airport. I encourage DCP to also monitor the debris
from these cement plants that can get into the air, along with the affect that airplanes would have,
and how both would affect air quality for residents.

Task 17. Noise


Low flying planes and the resulting noise have caused health concerns for residents in my
district, and thus have greatly affected their quality of life. As mentioned in the current scope of
work, the proposed development area would be directly in line with LaGuardia Airports current
flight pattern. Furthermore, Flushing West is also entirely in the 65 DNL contour, highlighting
the significant impact that aircraft generated noise has on the district.
My understanding is also that the FAA has not conducted a comprehensive review of the
TNNIS climb, which was approved for general use in 2012, with the reasoning that the only
significant noise impact occurred in an industrial area. As the Flushing West study area is part of
that original industrial area, I urge DCP to study the aircraft generated noise, the impact it has on
current and future residents, and to work with the FAA to develop a way to mitigate noise
levelsincluding strong consideration to reverting the flight pattern to pre-2012 patterns. The
pre-2012 patterns includes planes flying over Flushing Meadows Corona Park, instead of over
downtown Flushing and the homes of residents.

Task 18. Public Health


The fact that development has been proposed for potential brownfield sites located
adjacent to Flushing Creek, a polluted waterway, raises public health concerns. I urge DCP to

conduct a public health assessment to make sure that new residential development on the
Flushing Creek waterfront does not result in adverse public health impacts.
CONCLUSION
This neighborhood planning process has the potential to transform the Flushing
waterfront into a healthy, economically vibrant, mixed-income community. However, this
planning process will only be successful if adequate investments are made to not only mitigate
the impacts of the proposed increased floor area, but also address the existing capital needs of the
community. The current CEQR framework focuses entirely too much on mitigating the increment
between no-action and with-action scenarios, as opposed to addressing existing community
needs. In Flushing we need to not only mitigate impacts from such increased density, but also
address the housing crisis, the overcrowded schools, the terrible bus traffic, the congested subway
stairs, the deteriorated roads, and the polluted Flushing Creek. This administration has stated
publicly that each neighborhood rezoning will include comprehensive capital budget allocations
to ensure that with increased density comes increased investment. Here in Flushing the City needs
to follow through on such promises with the appropriate investments that will make sure that this
neighborhood is transformed in a positive way.