A coalition of 11 grassroots organizations is organizing the Queens March Against Gentrification on Thursday, April 20th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. The march will begin at the 7-train plaza at 46th Street-Bliss Street and Queens Blvd. The aim of the march is to get Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer to publicly oppose plans for LIC Core Rezoning, the BQX streetcar, and Sunnyside Yards.
The coalition has collected signatures from nearly 500 residents and business owners across western Queens who firmly oppose these developments and over 500 people have expressed interest in attending the march thus far. Even though these projects are only in the “planning” stage, the current proposals will primarily enrich developers at the expense of working class people, small businesses, and people of color.
- Long Island City Core rezoning would lead to new office space which DCP has stated to be their top priority for created a “mixed use neighborhood”; however, the density bonuses would likely attract Class A office space which only corporations and large companies can afford, thereby further pressuring out small businesses, artists and small startups who contribute to a thriving, healthy community. The LIC rezoning would create some new affordable housing; however, under the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, affordable housing would only be a fraction of the new, luxury developments, and the affordable units that are built would not be genuinely affordable as they are based on NYC’s area median income which is over $90,000 for a family of four.
- The BQX Trolley will raise property values along the entire route from Astoria and through Long Island City to Sunset Park, not only pushing out residents but also endangering some of the few remaining manufacturing zones left in NYC. In fact, the way that the Friends of the BQX and Mayor have proposed to finance the $2.5 billion project is in part by the new tax revenue generated as land values increase along the entire trolley route. Express bus routes would be much cheaper and improve commuting times. Additionally, as Columbia university transportation expert David King points out, express bus routes would not contribute to gentrification in the way a trolley would.
- In February, the City released a feasibility study for Sunnyside Yards that outlines 3 developments options. All three are primarily focused on the creation of new, market rate housing. Anywhere from 14,000 to 24,000 units could be created, the study concludes, of which only 4,200 to 7,200 would be designated as affordable.
For all of the above developments, the City lacks the mechanism to determine and mitigate against environmental and human impacts. The city’s formal environmental review process has a track record of grossly underestimating the needs of the community. As an example, prior to the 2001 rezoning of LIC, the city predicted that only 400 units of housing would be built and no new schools would be need. What actually happened was that over 10,000 units of housing were built and LIC is now has one of the most overcrowded school districts in the city.
The march is not a march against Jimmy Van Bramer; it is a march against gentrification in western Queens.