Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics


Separating Fact and Fiction About the Special Flushing Waterfront District

sfwd rendering

Rendering of the Special Flushing Waterfront District

There are several myths and mischaracterizations about the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD) that we as owners want to set the record straight about. Here are several key facts about the project.

SFWD does not provide an advantage to obtain building height.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have already provided Letters of No Objection to allow height increases for the Special Flushing Waterfront District. SFWD only provides a consolidation of approval processes. Rather than submitting to the Board of Standards and Appeals for this, special permit approval would be provided by the City Planning Commission as part of the SFWD Waterfront Certification process. FAA and Port Authority Letters of No Objection have to be provided for this administrative approval.

In the past 20 years, the dozen special permits for height granted in Downtown Flushing were all routinely provided upon submission of FAA and Port Authority Letters of No Objection.

There will be zero sanitary sewer discharge into Flushing Creek.
All sanitary sewer effluent will be piped directly to Tallman Island Treatment Plant in College Point. Some say other developments pollute Flushing, making it seem like SFWD will do the same, but that is provably false. 

SFWD provides comprehensive stormwater runoff mitigations to prevent shoreline erosion and provide prudent shoreline restoration techniques, such as: permeable pavers, green roofs, soft shoreline edges, and onsite stormwater retention before discharge into Flushing Creek. 

As-of-Right vs SFWD: The exact same buildable bulk.
The as-of-right development scenario can currently be built. SFWD is not needed to achieve maximum bulk. At least two of the sites have plans that demonstrate this, one already with New York City Department of Buildings-approved building plans, ready to proceed. Opposition makes it appear this is not the case and that residential units, commercial and retail space are all being incrementally added. 

Macedonia AME Church is not a victim.
The Macedonia AME Church was beneficially rezoned as part of the Municipal Lot #1 ULURP in 2010. That was an economic boost for them and they are an important stalwart in our community. Macedonia built 142 affordable housing units at their Macedonia Plaza site. We know Reverend Richard McEacheron and he voted for the Special Flushing Waterfront District as a member of Queens Community Board 7 and he testified in support of SFWD at the City Planning Commission and City Council hearings. There are no complaints from him or his congregation.

Community Support
At the recent City Council hearing, over 75% of the 100+ speakers were in favor of our project and its many merits. The Council also received more than 330 letters of support for the Special District from Flushing residents and business owners. The community clearly supports this project.

Queens Community Board 7 represents Flushing, among other neighborhoods. Minkwon Center may be vocal, but that does not make it the town crier for Flushing.  Minkwon representatives have never appeared at any Queens CB7 hearings prior to the Special Flushing Waterfront District or since. It has its own agenda and refuses to meet with representatives of SFWD.

SFWD is not designed to provide a solution for homelessness nor ensure union jobs. It is designed to provide a better urban experience and numerous community benefits, including:

-A new road network, vital to our community, to alleviate College Point Boulevard traffic and connect the Special Flushing Waterfront District to Downtown Flushing.

-A fully public waterfront promenade doubled in width to 40 feet and extended by more than 400 feet in length.

-Space for seniors, youth groups and community organizations.

-6.6 acres of public open space, whereas as-of-right development would bring only 3 acres.

-Design that will allow for small local storefronts and better pedestrian experiences on the street and waterfront.

-An ideal public-private partnership between the Department of City Planning and three developers, designed to prevent the construction of three "Skyview" developments.

The current proposal seeks enhanced zoning for only 10% of the overall project on a small lot to the north, also entirely on private land. The vast majority of the project has no change in zoning at all, including the area encompassing the new public road network that will alleviate traffic and grant direct access to the waterfront. There is no increase in bulk, except a small portion in the north to allow a 400-foot extension of the waterfront promenade and to provide some affordable housing units.

If you want to advance more affordable housing, then you should contact the Mayor, the President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and City Council Member Francisco Moya. Insist on more affordable housing at Willets Point, which is public land. 

A defeat of the SFWD does not advance the affordable housing issue. Defeat will remove affordable housing from the sites completely, and all the benefits described above.

by Richard Siu of F&T Group; William Xu of United Construction & Development Group; and John Liang, Young Nian Group.

Have an op-ed idea or submission for Gotham Gazette? Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Print Friendly and PDF

Editor's Choice

Gotham Gazette: New York Left Hits Wall in Primaries, Points to Reasons for Optimism
New York Left Hits Wall in Primaries, Points to Reasons for Optimism
Gotham Gazette: Rethinking Economic Development in the Post-Covid World
Rethinking Economic Development in the Post-Covid World
Gotham Gazette: The Forgotten History of Latino Politics in New York
The Forgotten History of Latino Politics in New York
Gotham Gazette: Max Politics Podcast Max Politics Podcast