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Op-Ed: Affordable Housing in Flushing is Possible

Flushing United, a grassroots organization consisting of Asian-American civic leaders and local residents, has put forward a number of proposals concerning the development of 39-03 College Point Blvd. (Photo of the development site courtesy of Flushing United)

July 1, 2022 By Jerry Lo, Yi (Andy) Chen and Hailing Chen

The Flushing community is at a pivotal moment when it comes to the future of affordable housing in our neighborhood.

As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic crisis, New York’s housing stock continues to be insufficient and unaffordable for many middle-class, immigrant families. We must combat feelings of powerlessness and hopelessness with a drive for creative, alternative solutions that will uplift families, seniors, small business owners, and entire communities.

Mayor Eric Adams has rightfully recognized this challenge and earlier this month unveiled his plan to address the housing crisis, noting “housing cannot be a privilege, it’s the key to living a healthy lifestyle. Safe, stable, and affordable housing is fundamental to our prosperity.”

We completely agree with Mayor Adams and that’s why Flushing United has developed not one, but three plans to build affordable housing on an undeveloped site located at 39-03 College Point Boulevard.

We developed these plans after the landowner, Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) falsely and repeatedly claimed that building a transitional housing shelter was the only feasible option for the site.

Despite AAFE’s assertions that it has had an “extensive community engagement process,” there has been no open, public meeting of any kind with the Flushing neighborhood. If they had gone through that process, they would recognize that we have a unique opportunity here: Flushing both wants and needs truly affordable rental housing.

While AAFE has claimed that affordable housing could not work on this land, that is demonstrably untrue. Flushing United, a group of the local stakeholders, businesses, residents, workers and shoppers of Flushing, Queens, has put together three different affordable housing proposals that would comfortably fit within the confines of “as-of-right” development fitting the neighborhood’s historic context and surrounding buildings.

Additionally, the three proposals offered by Flushing United all provide affordable housing to those in precarious or tenuous housing situations and all the proposals will cost taxpayers significantly less than the $440 million that it would cost for the transitional housing development supported by AAFE. All the proposed alternatives offer long-term affordability and take advantage of a myriad of grants and financing mechanisms aimed at lifting working class families.

The first of Flushing United’s three proposals would offer 58 housing units ranging in levels of affordability from permanent housing for the formerly homeless to those earning 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). The total cost of this project would be $44.3 million, and it would help serve many lower income families.

Proposal two would seek to bridge the housing needs of the elderly in Flushing, providing 106 units of affordable rentals for seniors 62-and-older; these income thresholds would be 30-to-40 percent of the area median income, and leverage ground floor space for mixed-use community or commercial activity. The total cost would be $54.7 million and most importantly it would help to house our senior citizens who are so often forgotten.

The third proposal Flushing United was able to come up with was an intergenerational solution, offering housing to both the working families and the elderly; under this model, 76 units would be intergenerationally mixed, targeting a broad range of area median incomes from homeless-to-80 percent, and seniors up to 40 percent of the AMI. The total cost would be $51.6 million, once again a much cheaper price than the transitional shelter.

Flushing United is committed to community-driven solutions to the long-term growth and sustainability of our community, which is why we took the time, resources, and initiative to show that a future with affordable housing in Flushing is possible.

We cannot let the naysayers and non-believers drive our policies. We hope AAFE will take the time to review and seriously consider these options, and that they will be a partner in ensuring the Flushing community has access to the affordable housing that it needs and deserves for generations to come.

As the Mayor has said, “We’re going to give safe, affordable housing. New York has always been a beacon of life and hope and we’re going to continue to do so.”

Jerry Lo is the Acting President; Yi (Andy) Chen and Hailing Chen are Vice Presidents of Flushing United, a group of grassroots community leaders, Asian American Association organizations, business leaders, and medical professors from the Flushing community.

Flushing United, a grassroots organization consisting of Asian-American civic leaders and local residents, has put forward a number of proposals concerning the development of 39-03 College Point Blvd. (Photo of the development site courtesy of Flushing United)

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Flushing YIMBY

Many of the figures given here are not accurate. The total cost to taxpayers for the existing AAFE plan is just $15m compared to this editorial’s proposal of triple that amount; the existing proposal also specifically aims to help out the most marginalized of Asian-American and other families earning much less than even 40% of the AMI that has surged due to overdevelopment in Flushing.

More to the point, Flushing United is being hypocritical here in feigning concern for affordable housing while its proxies distribute posters in English saying they want “neighbors not shelters” and in Chinese proclaiming they want “residents not bums”.

Maybe this is a compromise between that extremism but it’s not altogether convincing when there is no evidence that the existing AAFE plan poses any threat to the neighborhood, property values, or safety while aiding far more people at less cost.

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