Last Thursday, elected officials and local advocates joined management representatives from The Shops at SkyView in Flushing to cut the ribbon on the new esplanade.
Dotted with greenery and benches, the promenade runs from the end of 40th Road along the creek to Roosevelt Avenue. Environmental advocates and officials alike hope it’s just the first section of the waterfront that will be opened to the public, culminating at Northern Boulevard.
“Someone had to go first, so we went first,” said Dave Brickman, a partner at ONEX Real Estate Partners. “We’re hoping that what we created here is going to pave the way for a vibrant and connected waterfront.”
“We look forward to building relationships and partnerships with stakeholders to realize the potential of this first piece in the greater revitalization and access to the creek and bay waterfronts,” added Karl Hagstrom from ShopCore Properties, which owns and manages SkyView.
The esplanade, which has been a decade in the making, drew praise from Councilman Peter Koo, who noted that SkyView was mandated by the city to build the new space.
Koo said residents can come to the promenade to connect with nature.
“Flushing is full of apartments and is very congested,” he said. “Now they have a chance to come out to some open space, to see the waterway.”
State Senator John Liu recalled that when he was a child growing up in Flushing, he had always wondered why the local waterway wasn’t accessible to him.
The opening of the promenade represents a big step ahead to making the creek accessible for not only boating, but even swimming in the future, Liu said.
“Twenty years ago, you would’ve thought somebody was crazy if they told you that somebody was boating or swimming in the Hudson River,” he said. “Guess what? They’re doing it now.
“If that can happen in the Hudson River, that can definitely happen in Flushing,” he added.
Liu said he wishes the esplanade was created 10 or even 20 years ago, but “now is as good a time as any.” He said he expects other developers of privately owned lots to also create public access points along the creek.
“I know within my lifetime, we are going to see this entire area be transformed into something that we only imagined in our childhood, but it will become a reality,” Liu said.
To get to that point, however, the city will need to clean up Flushing Creek, which has been plagued by combined sewer overflow (CSO) whenever heavy rainfall occurs.
Koo said the creek is smelly, green and hostile to fish. Ironically, he said, residents who pay thousands of dollars in property taxes to live near the waterfront can often see their own sewage from their windows.
“I hope the city has a plan to build another CSO plant around here and clean up Flushing Creek,” he said. “Otherwise, this is a beautiful place.”
Rebecca Pryor, program coordinator for Guardians of Flushing Bay and Riverkeeper, said having green infrastructure like a waterfront promenade can be part of the solution.
She said when it rains even a tenth of an inch, there’s a trigger that allows CSO to pour into the bay and the creek.
“We can raise that trigger by installing more green infrastructure and green space, and making sure that rain doesn’t go into the pipes to begin with,” Pryor said. “We want rain to go into the grass.”