Ten Questions With The Developers Of The Special Flushing Waterfront District Master Plan, in Flushing, Queens

Under the consortium of “FWRA LLC,” developers Richard Siu of F&T Group, John Liang of Young Nian Group LLC, and William Xu of United Construction & Development Group recently announced plans for the Special Flushing Waterfront District, a major redevelopment in downtown Flushing, Queens. Designed by Hill West Architects, the master plan would transform an underdeveloped swath of land bound by Flushing Creek, Northern Boulevard, College Point Boulevard, and Roosevelt Avenue into a mixed-use community, while simultaneously restoring and upgrading the neighborhood’s public waterfront access. YIMBY reached out to the development team with ten questions on what’s to come for the project.

YIMBY in bold.

A watercolor rendering of the Flushing waterfront development by Jeff Stikeman Architectural Art.

How many new residential units would the proposed rezoning add to Flushing?

Richard Siu, F&T Group: Our proposed plan for the unoccupied area that makes up the Special Waterfront District would add 1,725 homes to Downtown Flushing, including affordable housing. If the Special District is not approved, then there will be zero affordable housing, no publicly accessible integrated road network to help alleviate the heavy traffic congestion in Downtown Flushing, and the waterfront will be significantly reduced in size and scope.

The proposed Special District will be privately funded and maintained, and will provide for a substantially improved and coordinated publicly accessible waterfront open space, integrated publicly accessible road network, extensive environmental remediation, infrastructure upgrades related to the existing sewer and drainage system, and much more.

When the Special District is approved, all public benefits we’ve highlighted will exist in perpetuity and be mandated to be open to the public. It’s also important to note that the Special Waterfront District, once approved, has provisions to prevent any property owner from reneging on building the proposed public benefits, such as the road network or expanded waterfront.

What about commercial and retail square footage?

John Liang, YNG: Combined, the office and community facilities comprise approximately 400,000 gross square feet. This is in addition to more than 286,000 gross square feet of retail space, as well as 687,250 gross square feet of hotel space, which will create a plethora of permanent jobs and further boost Flushing as a destination. Our vision behind all these offerings is to knit together Downtown Flushing and the Flushing Creek waterfront to improve the quality of life for the Flushing community, and Queens at large. 

How many new jobs is the rezoning expected to eventually create?

William Xu, United Group: The Special Flushing Waterfront District will create 2,926 permanent jobs, including an additional 558 average construction workers per day. This is an extremely important part of revitalizing our economy. 

What kind of environmental remediation are you planning for the site?

John Liang, YNG: As you well know, sadly, the Flushing Creek is one of the most contaminated bodies of water in all of New York City. Through a mandatory environmental remediation plan—performed under the supervision of and based upon the guidelines issued by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Brownfield Cleanup Program—we will achieve everything from a new and privately funded sanitary sewer system to flood resiliency. As part of the privately funded cleanup, we will also address soil, groundwater, and soil vapor due to earlier contamination from past industrial sites and provide major infrastructure additions and upgrades to the existing sewer and storm water drainage systems. It’s a tremendous undertaking that has been sorely needed for decades. 

Flushing Creek.

How much public space will be included in the revitalization, and what specific components within these new spaces do you think will be most valuable to the surrounding neighborhood and community?

Richard Siu, F&T Group: This is a whole new chapter for the Flushing waterfront. The Special District will transform this heavily contaminated area that has laid dormant for decades into an exciting outdoor gathering space for the community. The 160,000-square-foot privately funded and maintained, publicly accessible waterfront will be in addition to the privately funded and maintained, publicly accessible integrated road network, which will significantly help alleviate the traffic congestion the Flushing community faces every day.

How much additional tax revenue do you anticipate the rezoning will bring into city coffers?

William Xu, United Group: In addition to the 2,926 permanent jobs, we anticipate the Special Flushing Waterfront District will bring $28 million in annual tax revenue, which is immensely important to sparking the local economy. The city needs this type of stimulus. In total, the project will bring billions in private investment to the Flushing neighborhood—something especially important given the area’s history of government funding neglect.

Do you think more widespread rezonings are an eventuality in Flushing given its proximity to transit hubs as well as both of the major airports within New York City’s limits?

John Liang, YNG: Queens has always had its own identity, but it’s really coming into its own because of all the unique developments that are happening. Those who work and live in Flushing understand its long, proud history and entrepreneurial spirit.

Over the last 30 years, Flushing has evolved into a true New York City destination largely because of the economic development spearheaded by elected officials and dedicated community leaders who care deeply about the neighborhood. Downtown Flushing has become an iconic, bustling central business district, but right now, the neighborhood is suffering, and the waterfront remains a stagnant eyesore, sitting idle and polluted. The Special Flushing Waterfront District will provide stimulus for Flushing to continue to thrive, all while creating a superior design and overall stronger plan that ultimately provides a more comprehensive benefits package to the community. 

The long-awaited AirTrain to LaGuardia is yet another major transit link nearing completion. As Flushing becomes an increasingly important node and sees more development both through rezonings and as-of-right, do you think we will see any skyscrapers, or does proximity to LaGuardia and JFK likely rule this out permanently?

William Xu, United Group: Irrespective of any infrastructure upgrades, the FAA governs all the height regulations, and based on the height approvals we received in both our southern and northern parcels, we don’t anticipate skyscrapers becoming a factor in Flushing—or the surrounding areas in proximity of the airport—anytime soon. Height limitations will always impact Queens in how dense it can become, ensuring this neighborhood will continue to retain its character. It also ensures that its local economy will continue to grow through other avenues, like major private investors dedicated to providing a financial stimulus to the local real estate and small business community. 

Each of the developers is rooted in Flushing in some way. What makes this area so desirable and unique?

Richard Siu, F&T Group: It’s easy for people to forget the state of Flushing even just a decade or two ago. It was an underappreciated community with significant crime and lacked public and private investment. The investments we’ve made in Flushing have improved the quality of life there tremendously, creating permanent jobs and tax revenue. This area has the most businesses in the entire Queens borough—9,000, to be exact (Office of The New York State Comptroller 2018 report). Locals are proud of what Flushing has become, and we’re proud to progress an area where we’ve developed and worked in for many years. 

For 20 years there have been false starts and stops to activate the Flushing waterfront. The neighborhood has come so far and the Special District will revitalize these underutilized and unoccupied parcels of land that sit stark and dilapidated and unite it with a vibrant neighborhood people now see as a destination. 

Besides the rezoning and redeveloping the Flushing Waterfront, what’s next in store for you and your teams?

Richard Siu, F&T Group: We all stay very busy. I will say that with the Special Flushing Waterfront District being a long-term, multi-year project, we are all focused on ensuring the Special District comes to fruition in the most beneficial and efficient way possible.

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12 Comments on "Ten Questions With The Developers Of The Special Flushing Waterfront District Master Plan, in Flushing, Queens"

  1. There is an oversupply of unsold units , and rentals are giving
    twi months free rent currently. Maybe this should be scaled down due to softness in the market. Looks like it doesn’t fit with
    the area. The goal shouldn’t be just to build without demand..

    • David in Bushwick | September 13, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Reply

      What are you worried about? In a market driven economy of supply and demand, an increased supply in badly needed housing can only help keep rent from going ever-higher which is already a problem for most people.

    • There is no such thing as an oversupply, and the two months free is because they don’t want to drop their monthly rents. Why not scale it up so we can get more concessions and lower rents?

  2. Only 1,725 housing units? Seems too little given the size of the plan. And 687k square feet of hotel space? Seems like too much. I think there should be more focus on market and affordable housing. In addition, the density looks good, but the design does not reflect or fit in the with the surrounding community.

  3. Unrelated to the article: Can you provide links to the other YIMBY sites somewhere on the page?

  4. It would be nice to see an interview conducted by a reporter who resides on this Planet.

    Instead we’re seeing questions wholly detached from the current reality that is New York City, New York State, and the United States.

    Here’s an obvious example: “The long-awaited AirTrain to LaGuardia is yet another major transit link nearing completion…”
    “Nearing completion?”
    Seriously? The fact is the AirTrain is still a proposal, hasn’t gotten any funding, and is opposed by most people because it takes an absurd route and would only be used by a tiny minority of travelers, mostly it’s a connection for employees who would park at Citi Field on the 280 days a year that the Mets aren’t playing.

    The world has changed in the last six months and YIMBY has its head planted firmly in the sands of Fantasyland.

  5. so this “eyesore” is going to be redeveloped? the same way willets point was going to be redeveloped? i work near willets point and all i see is the same car parts businesses, land that was razed for development but is now full of rats and discarded anti-freeze and other automobile fluids, and DEP testing the water supply. what a joke

  6. The waterfront redevelopment looks great. Mr. Siu’s answers are pretty strange though:

    > If the Special District is not approved, then there will be zero affordable housing, no publicly accessible integrated road network to help alleviate the heavy traffic congestion in Downtown Flushing, and the waterfront will be significantly reduced in size and scope.

    This doesn’t address the the questio and seems like something you would say to try to persuade a city council member (with an undercurrent of a political threat?).

    > Over the last 30 years, Flushing has evolved into a true New York City destination largely because of the economic development spearheaded by elected officials and dedicated community leaders who care deeply about the neighborhood

    Why did he say this? Does NYYIMBY have a thriving readership among City Concil types?

  7. Humorous how many non-Chinese people are in the renderings.

    20 years from now New York will be a majority Chinese city. It will be even more corrupt than it is now, tackier and shabbier, but at least crime will be handled in an appropriate manner.

  8. Agree with @Paul re LGA AirTrain.

    Other than King Cuomo, who, when it comes to the LaGuardia Airport PASSENGER TERMINAL redevelopment (nb: it’s SO NOT the “1st new airport built in the USA in 25 years” no matter how many times Cuomo LIES & insists that he alone managed to do something no other politician anywhere else in the country has been able to do since Denver opened up its truly new – as in new location; entirely new runways; entirely new passenger terminal; entirely new cargo & maintenance facilities; entirely new fuel farms; entirely new water & sewage systems; entirely new EVERYTHING – NOT, repeat NOT, building a new passenger terminal; tearing down the old one at the otherwise SAME AIRPORT with the same RUNWAYS, which is what the LGA TERMINAL REDEVELOPMENT is instead of King Cuomo’s REPEATED LIES that he pulled off the extraordinary feat that nobody else anywhere else in the entire country has been able to do since 1995. What a load of CRAP! Sheesh. But, ah, I digress.

    But, speaking of King Cuomo’s LIES & crap, let’s take a moment to remind readers that nearly EVERYONE (that isn’t sucking up & kissing the ring on King Cuomo’s hand) HATES LIAR CUOMO’s super lame & pathetic toy trains that even the NY Daily News last year called “Silly Little Trolleys.”

    So, NY YIMBY, you do a disservice by:

    – referring to those pathetic, unwanted & loathed “Silly Little Trolleys” as if they’re a done deal, especially when the $2.5 billion (likely much higher when all is said & done when considering that just five years ago LIAR CUOMO said the cost to build his toy/pretend “trains” [btw, they’re actually called “People Movers”, NOT “trains”, in places like Orlando International Airport where they connect satellite concourses with headhouses & they’re FREE instead of an outrageous $7.75 each way, per person] could be put to much better use on things like the Gateway Tunnels under the Hudson River; accelerating construction of the 2nd Avenue Subway; completing/adding subway station at 10th Avenue & West 40th Street (Hudson Yards/Midtown West/Hell’s Kitchen) on the 7 line just to name a few transit projects far more important than WASTING $2.5 billion on 3rd rate PEOPLE MOVER that will fleece gullible rubes from out of town who don’t know they can take the bus & subway to Jackson Heights, take the same, or even LESS time to get to where they’re going all without flushing $7.75 down the toilet!

    – present the AirTrain as something positive when virtually every INDEPENDENT/CREDIBLE transportation expert who is NOT on King Cuomo’s payroll or needs to stay on the King’s good side says Cuomo’s “Silly Little Trolley” is a joke that will burden New York City with the LEAST DESIRABLE, MOST WASTEFUL & HIGHEST COST for users (let alone taxpayers) transit option possible for generations to come.

    Just sayin’

    Frankly, for a publication that prides itself on bettering New York by promoting investment & development of real estate, it’s disappointing that NY YIMBY would find Cuomo’s stupid & unwanted by most New Yorker’s who actually already use (& HATE) the 2 existing PEOPLE MOVERS at JFK & Newark Airports even remotely acceptable as a worthwhile transit option for LaGuardia Airport.

    Has anyone been to cities like Chicago, Baltimore (BWI)/Washington (DCA), heck even Denver’s truly all new (in 1995) airport where actual 1-seat, 1-fare transit options have long existed?

    Or pretty much any truly “world class” city like London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai where REAL TRAINS featuring 1-seat, 1-ride to/from their airports have also LONG EXISTED?

    For example, Hong Kongers & visitors to Hong Kong whisk between Central on Hong Kong island & that city’s beautiful airport, which btw, is easily much further than LGA is from midtown Manhattan in just 24 minutes aboard comfy trains (with luggage racks everywhere to make schlepping bags easy-peasy for EVERYONE) nicer than LIRR or Metro North trains, let alone the misery that is the 7 line for overcrowding & destroying bags as flyers drag them up/down endless flights of stairs!

    NYC deserves so much better than a clunky, expensive PEOPLE MOVER to/from citifield that costs $7.75 to basically go nowhere other than out of the way by a not so scenic route just to reach the 7 train or Port Washington branch of the LIRR that runs just 2 trains per hour outside of weekday rush hours.

    If it wants to continue calling itself “Capital of the World” without being laughed at for its rinky-dink, 3rd rate PEOPLE MOVERS at all 3 of its airports, that is.

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