2002-08-14 / Front Page

McLaughlin Outlines Plan For Developing Downtown Flushing

by john toscano

Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (l.) and Li Yong Jin, mayor of Dalian, met during McLaughlin’s visit to China. The woman was their translator.Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (l.) and Li Yong Jin, mayor of Dalian, met during McLaughlin’s visit to China. The woman was their translator.

On a recent trip to China as head of a delegation of Flushing business leaders, Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin explored the possibilities of attracting Chinese investment dollars to an ambitious downtown Flushing redevelopment plan.

McLaughlin said the upshot of the discussions with Chinese government officials was that the latter pledged an on-going dialogue to exchange ideas and solutions on issues involved in the potentially massive Flushing plan such as mass transit, waterfront development and harnessing work force potential.

The trip also gave McLaughlin the opportunity to present a gift to Chinese officials in appreciation for acts of kindness to tens of thousands of Jews who fled Hitler’s atrocities.

McLaughlin’s press representative explained that he had been informed of the Chinese aid extended to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany by a representative of the American Jewish Congress, which had discovered it in a research project.

"The AJC knew about it, but it was not widely known," said the spokeswoman. "But it is a fact that hasn’t been trumpeted and Mr. McLaughlin thought it proper to extend his thanks on behalf of his Jewish constituents and on behalf of all people opposed to religious atrocities."

In addition to presenting a memorial plaque, McLaughlin pledged to introduce legislation to have the city’s public school curriculum include an examination of the role of the Chinese in saving Jewish lives.

He stated: "World War II had many heroes, but the Chinese contribution has gone largely unnoticed and underappreciated."

McLaughlin (D), Flushing’s representative in Albany for the past 10 years, said in an interview on Monday that his long-cherished plan to develop the 110 acres between Shea Stadium and Main Street has "incredible potential."

The lawmaker, feels that more than 40,000 jobs can be created, and new restaurants and other service-type business could be developed, thereby transforming what he says is now an economically dormant location into a vibrant, productive community.

McLaughlin said that at his urging, the Bloomberg mayoral administration has embraced the idea warmly, creating a Flushing Task Force headed by administration Economic Development Commissioner Dan Doctoroff. Task Force members include Flushing business, elected and community leaders. The panel has already met several times as it considers the feasibility of the huge development project.

McLaughlin said that during his week-long, three-city jaunt several weeks ago, he was struck by his hosts’ reaction to the development plan.

"Here we were, thousands of miles from home, but the concerns and aspirations of these government leaders were similar to our own—providing a better future for the people we represent."

Loosely describing the plan and the elements that would lead to its success, McLaughlin said optimistically, "It’s just five miles from LaGuardia Airport, a similar distance from the Flushing waterfront; there are two major stadiums, Shea and the National Tennis Stadium, very close by, and a 100-acre park, Flushing Meadow–Corona Park, which lends itself to major family-type multicultural programs."

The premise of the plan is to create an entertainment environment in Downtown Flushing that would attract thousands of sports fans and other entertainment seeking people, McLaughlin explained.

"We’ve already got so many wonderful restaurants there, but there’s room for many, many more, diversified and offering a wide variety of cuisines, to attract the huge crowds that frequent events at nearby entertainment facilities," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin pointed out that downtown Flushing is the fourth largest retail center in the entire city, "so you can imagine what the right kind of a development would mean for the city’s economy."

The plan also has potentially broad-scale implications for major transportation improvements, which means that the city and state governments would have to lend their support to the plan.

This would mean, McLaughlin said, not only dealing with ways to ease traffic away from the major highways in the vicinity, but also loosen the congestion on local streets.

McLaughlin also sees connecting Shea and the National Tennis Center as an important part of the plan. "We also need a new pedestrian bridge from College Point Boulevard to Flushing Bay, and this would mean getting rid of the Willets Point junkyards, a major eyesore in the area," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said eliminating the Willets Point auto junk yards is essential to the plan, but he did not go into detail as to how this could be done without delaying the far-reaching development.

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