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The Magnificent 7: Developers Rejoice, Tenants Despair At The 7 Train’s Gentrifying Trail Through Queens

The Magnificent 7: Developers Rejoice, Tenants Despair At The 7 Train’s Gentrifying Trail Through Queens

By Jeff Vasishta August 30, 2016
Photo courtesy of www.amny.com

Like Anthony Weiner racing to delete his Twitter account, gentrification is blazing a determined trail through all New York Boroughs. In Brooklyn, soaring rents and displacement are old news. The more pertinent questions are, who are these hipsters, how many of them are there and are they really going to take over Queens? Helping their Viking-like invasion of the outer Boroughs is an odd ally—the 7 Train.

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In the same way that the L train slashed and burned its way through working class communities in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick, the 7 Train is expected to do similar things in residential neighborhoods like Woodside, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona. However, unlike Brooklyn, Queens housing stock is markedly different. Excluding the already hot Long Island City, there are no brownstones and lofts, instead there are hulking banks of multi-unit buildings that make up many Queens neighborhoods. Zoning restrictions means that these will likely not give way to skyscrapers as in LIC. Instead developers will make like Beyoncé and upgrade them.

Photo courtesy of theodysseyonline.com

It makes sense. Even though property values have doubled from 2012-2016 in neighborhoods such as Sunnyside and Woodside, rental prices are still a bargain compared Manhattan and Brooklyn. For long time Queens renters, though, the storm clouds are gathering. The 10 million square feet of office space at Hudson Yards will connect near the 7 lines’ West 34th St Hudson Yards station, which opened in September 2015. Currently a two-bedroom apartment in midtown Manhattan rents for $4257-$4674/month. In Sunnyside and Woodside, they rent for over $2000 less ($2112 – $2287). Both are only a 15-20-minute commute via the 7 train.

Thirty minute commutes are also game for rampant gentrification on the 7 line with rents currently in Corona being under $2000/month for a two-bedroom apartment.

“It’s the chase for affordable rent,” Daniel Wechsler, a vice president at Ariel Property Advisors told the NY Observer. “The further east you go the cheaper it gets. People will ask, ‘can I tack on another five minutes to my commute, another 10 minutes to my commute?’ These neighborhoods are going to become more attractive to people.”

Attempting to fight gentrification may seem akin to reversing up a hill during a mudslide but the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, as their name suggests, are attempting to do just that. In particular, they are opposed to the 10 story, 220-unit residential building proposed by Phipps Houses at 50-22 Barnett Avenue. Phipps needs to get the property rezoned go get the go ahead.

Dan Raymond, a co-founder of the Q.A.G.P., said the group is comprised of about six core members who believe that the gentrification wave is beginning to seep into Woodside, Jackson Heights and farther east.

“The hardworking people who made these neighborhoods… are now being forced out because of higher rents,” Raymond said. “The small immigrant businesses are disappearing and the big stores are moving in. We all see it.”

Raymond and his group are not alone. They have an ally in City Councilman, Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the neighborhood. The councilman argued to Poltico that the seven to 10-story building is too tall for the neighborhood, which he said predominately features low-rise residential buildings. He also voiced concerns about the fact that the developer hasn’t guaranteed that he will employ union building service workers at the development, which could not be confirmed by the Phipps CEO Adam Weinsten.

“To us, converting a parking lot into affordable housing is the right choice for this property and will greatly improve a long-barren and neglected block,” a spokesperson for the developer said in a statement.”

The fight continues.

Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Jeff Vasishta

Jeff is a writer, husband and father but not necessarily in that order. As a music journalist he counts Prince, Beyonce and Quincy Jones amongst those he’s interviewed. He's also owned and flipped homes in Brooklyn, NJ, CT and PA.

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