16 THE QUEENS COURIER • FEBRUARY 13, 2020 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
Protesters face off with Community Board Chair Eugene Kelty.
CB 7 approves Special Flushing Waterfront
District project at heated public hearing
BY MAX PARROTT
Queens Community Board 7’s public
Community Board 7 executives deliberate on the vote for the special waterfront rezoning.
hearing over the Special Flushing
Waterfront District on Monday night
turned into a drawn-out, 4 ½-hour aff air
as protesters against the rezoning fought
to have their voices heard within the
structure of the meeting.
Tensions boiled over as hundreds of residents
— the majority of whom opposed
the plan — packed into the Union Plaza
Care Center. In the middle of a two-hour
presentation on the plan, protesters and
two community board leaders clashed in
such a manner that police had to intervene.
Once things calmed down following
an interruption, the board resumed with
public testimony from all who signed
up — then cast an overwhelming 30-8
vote (with one abstention) recommending
approval of the project. Nevertheless,
even those who supported the special
waterfront district raised some fundamental
concerns with the plan.
Th e plan would create a 29-acre waterfront
district that would lead to the construction
of 1,725 new apartments, 879
new hotel units, a new road system, an
open waterfront path, offi ces, retail and
community center space. Th e developers
say it would off er between 75 and 90 units
of aff ordable housing.
Th e hearing began with a raucous rally
outside the nursing home where CB7
meets, led by labor and tenant unions
32BJ and the Minkwon Center, among
other community groups. Th ey urged the
board to vote against the plan and consider
alternatives on the basis of its environmental
As the meeting got underway, members
of the crowd raised concerns that
the agenda only scheduled 15 minutes of
public testimony, while community board
representatives and developers were allotted
two hours for presentations. About 45
people had signed up to speak — it’s estimated
that 30 of them opposed the district
— and they worried they wouldn’t
have a chance to speak.
At one point, CB 7 Chairperson Eugene
Kelty confronted the agitated protestors
for making too much noise. Th is led to
a shouting match during which Kelty
reached to grab a phone of a protester
who was fi lming him. Th is led to 109th
Precinct offi cers intervening to make sure
it didn’t escalate further.
Protesters face off with Community
Board Chair Eugene Kelty.
Moments later, when Land Use
Committee Chair Joe Sweeney tried to
diff use the situation, he and another protester
got too physically close. Cops had to
separate them as well.
Aft er taking a brief moment to cool
off , Board 7 decided to alter the prescribed
agenda in order to allow community
members to talk right away.
Th e testimony largely split between
community members associated with the
MinKwon Center, unions and environmentalists
who opposed the rezoning, and
local business owners who supported it as
Th ough the developers framed the vote
as a choice between the public benefi ts of
a rezoning, and as-of-right development
with none, several of the opponents said
they would not support the project without
an Environmental Impact Statement
(EIS), a detailed city report that analyzes
the eff ects of a rezoning.
“No rigorous study on its environmental
impact nor of its impact of gentrifi
cation and racialized housing
been made,” said David Lee, a staff er for
Assemblyman Ron Kim.
Many of the MinKwon protesters, a
group composed to a great extent of local
teenagers from immigrant households,
spoke about how they felt that their communities
were not consulted by the developers
or community board.
“Community Board 7 does not represent
the 14,000-plus Chinese immigrants
living in Flushing. I’m here because the
Chinese working class residents, who lack
English profi ciency, such as my family
could not make it,” said Yuriko Zhang, a
On the other hand, several of the developers
small business owners, though
fewer in numbers than their opponents,
spoke about their own background as
“I came to this country with nothing
but my bare hands,” said John Liang,
president of YNG, one fo the proposed
developers. “We go to school, we contribute
to this country and we earn our right
Todd Leong of Leaf Cocktail Bar and
Lounge described the rezoning as an
opportunity for young Flushing residents.
“It’s a project like this that will create
jobs. I employ 20 people, all of them
Flushing residents – many of them very
young,” said Leong. “Th ey are all able to
put themselves through college.”
Confl icted commu- nity board
When the com- m u n i -
ty board began to deliberate,
several of its
the concerns of the
congestion, the developer’s lack of commitment
to providing union jobs, real
estate speculation and lack of community
Community Board 7 executives deliberate
on the vote for the special waterfront
“Th ere really has been a serious lack of
input from organized community stakeholders,”
said Community Board Vice
Chair Lei Zhao.
Kelty responded that the Community
Board is always open to working with
local groups who approach them. Another
member, however, argued that the advisory
body should have proactive about communicating
with MinKwon Center.
Vice Chair Chuck Apelian, who recused
himself of a vote as a result of consulting
work for the project’s developers, gave
an impassioned speech arguing that the
developers will inevitably build, with or
without community approval.
“Th e big key and why I got involved in
this project is because the infrastructure
goes off College Point Boulevard through
the site over to Roosevelt instead of jamming
up Roosevelt Avenue,” said Apelian.
Community board votes are recommendations;
the fi nal say on rezoning plans
rests with the City Planning Commission
and the City Council.
Aft er suff ering a brief bout of indecision
and coming very close to tabling the vote,
the community board voted in favor of
approving the rezoning with an extensive
list of recommendations, which focus on
vehicular traffi c, environmental impacts
and a school construction study.
Th e board’s advisory vote will next go
to acting Borough Pr e s i d e n t
Sharon Lee, who
has 30 days to
submit a recommendation.
Photos: Max Parrott/QNS
Protesters lead a chant after an altercation with the community board chair.