Anti Gentrifiers In Queens Score A Victory As Developer Backs Down
Power To The People
[otw_shortcode_dropcap label=”I” font=”Bowlby One SC” color_class=”otw-black-text” background_color_class=”otw-no-background” size=”large” border_color_class=”otw-no-border-color”][/otw_shortcode_dropcap]f you’ve been to Long Island City recently, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re on set of a sci-fi movie. Cranes, hulking and skeletal patrol the skyline like mechanized dinosaurs turning the area from an outer borough to a futuristic condo-crazed boom town. Long Island City has gentrified so fast that even the hipster phase has been bypassed—and the long-term residents are getting worried about the future of their hometown.
As Agorafy has recently reported, the gentrification train is roaring through western Queens, putting Sunnyside and Woodside in a tailspin of escalating rents and new development. Several groups of locals hosted a panel discussion on Sunday, strategizing ways to keep tenants from being priced out.
Dubbed “Jobs, Homes and ‘Hoods, Queens Is Here to Stay”, the panel tackled the thorny subjects of displacement and how to keep small businesses afloat.
“I think the discussion went well,” said Amy Paul, director of Woodside on the Move, one of 11 groups sponsoring the event. “One of the biggest pushes was for elected officials to sign on for the Small Business Jobs Survival Act. We want them to see gentrification as something different than simply moving some people in and others out,” she said. “We want existing small business to be a part of the process.”
It does seem like the panel might be having a positive effect on development decisions. The day after the panel discussion, controversial plans for a large building (by the developers, Phipps Houses) were abandoned in light of an anti-gentrifying local official’s dissent.
Phipps Houses had been seeking to rezone a site at 50-25 Barnett Ave. to allow for a 10-story building of affordable apartments, 200-space parking garage and community space. It enjoyed early support from Mayor Bill de Blasio. Contention arose between the Mayor and local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who wasn’t impressed with the management of Phipps’ other nearby project. Despite de Blasio saying he would have a “firm” conversation with the councilman, Van Bramer’s skepticism proved to be a deciding factor and Phipps Houses backed out.
“I welcome this decision,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “All along, I’ve asked for Phipps to address issues at the 472-unit complex they own and operate across the street from the proposed new building.”
Van Bramer’s stance falls in line with local groups The Queens Anti-Gentrification Project and Woodside On The Move, who wish to protect and empower many of the lower-income Queens residents who have lived there for decades.
“You can’t just ignore people who have been part of the community for years,” said Amy Paul. “Obviously when landlords decide to sell a building for a lot of money there’s little we can do. But we’ve had tremendous success recently with getting a major landlord, BRG, to sit down with us and discuss tenant concerns in a property (96-10 37th Avenue in Corona) they own. Change is inevitable but it shouldn’t be at the expense of people who have lived in the community for years just because they don’t earn as much money as people who are moving in.”
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