Senator Peralta’s Assault on Roosevelt Avenue / El Ataque del Senador Peralta a la Roosevelt

haga click aquí para leer en español

“It’s turned into the old Times Square where you have prostitution, $2 dance clubs, drugs, fake IDs….and that needs to end.” – State Senator Jose Peralta, District 13

On November 1, 2016, State Senator Jose Peralta, along with State Senator Michael Gianaris and State Assemblymember Michael DenDekker, announced a plan to “clean up” Roosevelt Avenue through Woodside, Jackson Heights and Corona.  Peralta said that Roosevelt is “in a clear state of disarray,” plagued by “illicit activity.” He added that “when night falls the corridor metamorphoses into a noisy and salacious place that is undesirable for area residents.”  These politicians, led by Peralta, want to create task forces and commissions that will solve these supposed problems by increasing police activity and vastly increasing fines for local bars who allegedly violate cabaret license laws.

For a decade, the conditions on Roosevelt Avenue have not been a priority for local politicians.  Despite this, vibrant immigrant communities have grown independently, attracting visitors from other boroughs and around the world.  For those that live here, there is no disarray.  A vast majority of crime is that of the wealthy exploiting the poor, landlords exploiting tenants, bosses exploiting employees.  The criminal activities Peralta is pointing out are common to all cities and take place as much in Midtown Manhattan, despite countless security cameras and police, as they do in Jackson Heights, Woodside and Corona.

The expectations of Peralta’s plan are out of touch with the realities of urban life, clearly putting particular immigrant working class neighborhoods under a magnifying glass for a specific reason – real estate development.  His focus is not on ending exploitation, but rather changing its look.  By “clean up,” he means that he wants to criminalize and eliminate what he sees as an undesirable visual element – the poor immigrant – an obstacle for luxury development.  In his vision for the new Roosevelt Avenue, just like in Times Square, prostitution and drugs don’t actually stop, but rather move from the street into the penthouse.

Displacement and High Scale Development
The reason that Council Members and State Senators are now paying attention to Roosevelt Avenue has nothing to do with improving the conditions of the people already living there. They have chosen to encourage high scale development in these areas, with a mindset that justifies the need for interventions that don’t address the needs of working class residents – instead, they serve to drive rents up and push us all out in favor of affluent tenants, and of course, higher profits for real estate developers.  The agenda of improvements these elected officials propose is driven by opportunistic economic interests.

Local politicians have a record of favoring corporations such as the Mets and U.S. Open. The financial goals of these corporations influence the ideas envisioned by our politicians.  During sporting events, neighborhoods along the 7 train often experience disruptions of our normal life – heavy drinking by Mets fans visiting from places like Long Island, crowded trains, unmanageable traffic and a heavy police presence around Flushing Meadows Corona Park(FMCP), combined with the restriction of public access to the park during the hottest time of the year.  Two years ago, the U.S. Open was granted public park land in exchange for an insignificant amount of money dedicated to the maintenance of the park, which had been rejected from public funding.  Compared to Central Park which employs almost 200 maintenance staff, FMCP does not employ nearly enough staff despite the fact that it is the second most used park in the city.  The conditions of the park show constant neglect from the city, and public resources only go into the park when corporations stand to benefit.

It is within this context that Peralta wants more police along Roosevelt Avenue.  He points at drugs and prostitution, but there is a bigger picture.  There is a profit to be made from the expulsion of working class immigrants.  In addition to the slow privatization of the park, real estate developers have their eyes set on Jackson Heights and Woodside as the next “hot” neighborhoods.  There are new luxury developments popping up along Roosevelt, and several other projects on the table, including a failed Jackson Heights-Corona BID and a more recent proposal for a Woodside BID.  There is always an agenda attached to calls for more policing, especially in the era of mass displacement.

What Does Policing Actually Look Like On Roosevelt?
As all local Queens politicians made sure to send their regards for mother’s day this month, we know that their sentiments are nothing but empty words. The meaning of the month of May for many of the mothers in our neighborhoods is more police harassment – ticketing, arrest, or physical abuse, all for selling tamales, ice cream, mango with chili and other summer snacks.

In recent months, we have experienced what an increase in public safety and police presence means for our neighbors. This February, a NYPD officer attacked a street vendor, violently throwing her merchandise to the street.  There is little respect for working class immigrant women that make a living from selling homemade food. While Queens officials go out of their way to flaunt their immigrant background, they reject the types of programs that would protect the well being of immigrant street vendors. Another recent act of violence by the Parks Department was against a pregnant woman defending her mother, a street vendor in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

What are Queens politicians really doing to defend the hardest working people in their neighborhood, and the immigrant street cash economy in this “sanctuary city”? What would their mothers think about their policies of injustice that leave immigrant women unable to provide for their families?  They are not addressing the needs of the working class, but rather governing for their own benefit, real estate developers and the rich.

Next steps
Our neighbors along Roosevelt Avenue do need protection, not from supposed rampant crime, but from exploitation, real estate developers, politicians like Peralta and the police that enforce their policies. As neighbors, we need to look out for those most vulnerable under the current system, such as those working in the “informal” economy like sex workers and street vendors, as well as the homeless who congregate in our public spaces, and whose existence is criminalized under the current administration’s broken windows policy.  We need to develop defense networks, combat police harassment and deportation raids, and create long-lasting financial support structures for when such crises occur.

While some groups are calling for him to leave the IDC, Peralta along with other Democrats has demonstrated that there are much deeper and institutional issues that need to be addressed.  Thus we call on our Queens neighbors to publicly confront Peralta and other politicians, specifically regarding the lies being told about Roosevelt Avenue, and their agenda to gentrify our neighborhoods. Accordingly, we call on our neighbors to pressure Council Member Daniel Dromm to declare his support and solidarity with sex workers, many of whom are trans and/or LGBQI, street vendors, homeless people, and other vulnerable populations, and state the concrete steps he will take to realize that solidarity, in addition to denouncing Peralta’s plans.


El Ataque del Senador Peralta a la Roosevelt

(La Avenida Roosevelt) “Se ha convertido en la vieja Times Square donde hay prostitución, clubes de baile de $2, identificaciones falsas… y eso debe terminarse.” – Senador José Peralta, Distrito 13

El 1ero de noviembre del 2016, el Senador José Peralta, junto al Senador Michael Gianaris y el Asambleísta Micheal DenDekker, anunciaron un plan para “limpiar” la Avenida Roosevelt a lo largo de Woodside, Jackson Heights y Corona. Peralta dijo que la Av. Roosevelt está “ en un claro estado de desorden” plagado de “actividades ilícitas”. Añadió que “cuando cae la noche este sector sufre una metamorfosis que lo transforma en un lugar bullicioso y escabroso que es indeseable para las personas que viven en el área.” Estos políticos, liderados por Peralta, quieren crear fuerzas especiales y comisiones que supuestamente resolverán estos problemas incrementando la presencia de la policía y aumentando las multas a los bares locales que supuestamente violan las leyes que controlan los bares.

Por una década, las condiciones de la Avenida Roosevelt no han sido una prioridad para los políticos locales. A pesar de esto, las comunidades migrantes han crecido independientemente atrayendo visitantes de otros condados y gente de todo el mundo. Para la gente que vive aquí, no hay desorden. La mayor cantidad de crímenes que se sufre, es el crimen de la explotación de los ricos a los pobres, los dueños de casa explotando a los inquilinos, jefes explotando a empleados. Las actividades criminales que el Senador Peralta señala son comunes en todas las grandes ciudades y pasan igualmente en Midtown Manhattan, en Jackson Heights, Woodside y Corona a pesar del sin número de cámaras de seguridad y policía en las calles.

Las expectativas que propone el plan de Peralta demuestran su poco contacto y entendimiento de la vida urbana y son evidencia de cómo él quiere poner a los barrios de gente trabajadora migrante bajo una lupa de investigación, pero en realidad tiene  una razón específica: el interés en los bienes raíces y la construcción de inmuebles de lujo.  Su enfoque no tiene nada que ver con ponerle fin a la explotación, porque solo quiere cambiar la cara, el look.  Cuando él dice “limpieza” él quiere decir que quiere hacer que se les vea a los migrantes como criminales y así eliminar lo que él ve como un elemento visual indeseable – los migrantes pobres- que son un obstáculo para las construcciones de inmuebles de lujo. En su visión de la Avenida Roosevelt, así como en Times Square, la prostitución y las drogas no es que dejan de existir, solo se mueven de lugar, van de la calle a los penthouses.

Desalojos y Construcciones de Lujo
La razón por la que los concejales de la ciudad y los senadores están prestando atención a la Avenida Roosevelt no tiene nada que ver con mejorar las condiciones de la vida de la gente que ya vive ahí. Los políticos han escogido motivar la construcción de lujo en estas áreas, con una mentalidad que justifica la necesidad de intervenciones y cambios que no resuelven las necesidades de la gente trabajadora – en vez de eso, facilitan que se suban los precios de la renta y así pueden desalojarnos para atraer a inquilinos más afluentes, con más dinero y por supuesto que crean más oportunidades de ganancia para los que invierten en construcciones y renovaciones de edificios de negocios, viviendas etc.

La agenda de mejoramiento que proponen estos políticos está motivada por intereses económicos oportunistas.

Los políticos locales tienen una historia de favorecer a las corporaciones como los Mets y el U.S Open (el campeonato de tenis). Las metas financieras de estas corporaciones influencian las ideas que tienen estos políticos. Durante los eventos deportivos, los barrios a lo largo del tren 7 a menudo experimentan interrupciones en su vida diaria – fans de los Mets intoxicados con alcohol visitan desde lugares como Long Island, abarrotan los trenes, crean un tráfico incontrolable y se ve un alto incremento de la presencia de la policía en el parque de Flushing (FMCP), en el que se restringe el acceso del público al parque durante los meses más calientes del año. Hace dos años, el U.S Open (la corporación que dirige el campeonato de tenis) recibió más tierra pública del parque a cambio de una cantidad de dinero insignificante dedicada para el mantenimiento del parque, que ha sido rechazado del presupuesto público para cuidarlo por mucho tiempo. Comparado con el Central Park que emplea a casi 200 empleados para su mantenimiento, el parque de Flushing no tiene el personal suficiente, a pesar de que es el segundo parque más utilizado de la ciudad. Las condiciones del parque muestran un rechazo constante del gobierno de la ciudad, y los recursos públicos van al parque solo cuando se pueden beneficiar y les conviene a las corporaciones.

En este contexto es que Peralta quiere más policía a lo largo de la Roosevelt.  El señala las drogas, la prostitución, pero hay un panorama más amplio.  Hay una ganancia que se puede explotar de la expulsión de la gente migrante trabajadora. Además de la privatización lenta del parque, los inversionistas constructores de bienes raíces tienen los ojos puestos en Jackson Heights y Woodside como los siguientes barrios “de moda”.  Hay nuevos negocios, oficinas y viviendas de lujo apareciendo a lo largo de la Roosevelt y otros proyectos esperando en la mesa, incluyendo el fracasado Distrito de Mejoramiento de Negocios Jackson Heights-Corona y la más reciente propuesta de un Distrito de mejoramiento de negocios (BID) en Woodside . Siempre hay una agenda ligada a los llamados para más policía, especialmente en esta era de desalojos masivos.

¿Cuál es el verdadero rostro del aumento de Policía en la Roosevelt?
Mientras todos los políticos de Queens expresaron sus sentimientos de respeto en el día de las madres este mes de mayo, sabemos que sus sentimientos no son más que palabras vacías. El significado del mes de mayo para muchas de las madres en nuestros barrios es más acoso policial – tickets, arrestos, o abuso físico, todo esto por vender tamales, helados, mango con picante y otras golosinas de verano.

Durante los últimos meses, hemos experimentado lo que significa el incremento de seguridad pública y la presencia de la policía para nuestras vecinas. En febrero, un oficial de la policía de Nueva York NYPD atacó a una vendedora en la calle violentamente, tirando su mercadería a la calle. Hay poco respeto para las mujeres migrantes trabajadoras que se ganan la vida vendiendo comida hecha en casa. Mientras que los políticos de Queens no pierden la oportunidad de ostentar y presumir su identidad migrante, rechazan los programas que protegerían el bienestar de las migrantes que venden en la calle. Otro acto de violencia estuvo en manos de un guardia del Departamento de parques en contra de una mujer embarazada que defendía a su mamá, una mujer trabaja vendiendo en la calle y en el parque de Flushing.

¿Qué están haciendo en realidad los políticos de Queens para defender a las personas que más duro trabajan en los barrios de sus distritos, y ¿qué hacen por apoyar la economía inmigrante cash en esta supuesta ciudad santuario? ¿Qué pensarían sus mamás sobre sus políticas de injusticia que impiden que las mujeres inmigrantes puedan proveer el pan de cada día para sus familias? Ellos no están dedicando sus esfuerzos para atender las necesidades de la gente trabajadora, pero en lugar gobiernan para su propio beneficio, el de los inversionistas constructores de bienes raíces y los ricos.

¿Qué podemos hacer?
Las personas que viven a lo largo y en los alrededores de la Avenida Roosevelt necesitan protección, no del supuesto crimen desenfrenado, pero protección de la explotación, de los constructores de vivienda de lujo, de los políticos como Peralta y la policía que ejecutan sus políticas. Como vecinxs debemos cuidar a las personas que se vuelven más vulnerables bajo las condiciones actuales de este sistema, como la gente que trabajan en lo que llaman “la economía informal” las trabajadoras sexuales y las personas que venden en la calle, así como también las personas desamparadas, sin casa que se congregan en las plazas y espacios públicos, y las personas a las que se les tacha de criminales bajo las leyes de la alcaldía actual y sus políticas de “ventanas rotas”. Necesitamos desarrollar redes de protección, apoyo y defensa para combatir el acoso de la policía, las redadas de deportación, y crear estructuras y maneras de apoyo financiero a largo plazo para cuando ocurren estas crisis.

Mientras algunos grupos ya han pedido a Peralta que salga del grupo de Demócratas independientes, Peralta junto a otros políticos Demócratas ha demostrado que hay asuntos más profundos que se deben cambiar en estas instituciones. Por eso hacemos un llamado a nuestrxs vecinxs en Queens a enfrentar públicamente a Peralta y otros políticos, específicamente para denunciar las mentiras que dicen sobre la avenida Roosevelt, y su agenda para desplazarnos mientras traen gente con más poder adquisitivo a vivir en nuestros barrios. Así mismo hacemos un llamado a nuestras vecinas a presionar al concejal Daniel Dromm para que se declare en apoyo y solidaridad con las trabajadoras sexuales, muchas de las cuáles son trans y/o LGBQI, las vendedoras/xs que trabajan en la calle, la gente sin hogar y otras poblaciones vulnerables y exigir que establezcan los pasos concretos que tomarán para mostrar su solidaridad, además de denunciar el plan de Peralta.

Hey MAS! What are you doing in the name of Jane Jacobs?

Last week, dozens of grassroots organizations and passionate citizens came together to demand the Municipal Arts Society to reevaluate their Jane’s Walk criteria, and halt the controversial developer-led Friends of the BQX Jane’s walk which was scheduled for Friday, May 5th.

The Queens Anti-Gentrification Project instigated a letter campaign, which was joined by Queens Neighborhood United, Queens Not 4 Sale, Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network, the authors of Zoned Out, Friends and Residents of Greater Gowanus, UPROSE!(who also led a protest) and many others who called and sent their own letters to the Municipal Arts Society which hosts the annual Jane’s Walk celebration in NYC in honor of legendary community activist Jane Jacobs.

The Friends of the BQX canceled their walk, and the Municipal Art Society released a public statement in which they wrote: “we welcome your feedback that perhaps Jane’s Walk should be a more selective event. We are happy to discuss that suggestion with our international partners in planning next year’s festival.” This is a victory for all who believe that Jane’s Walk should be led by community organizations that live true to Jane’s philosophy of equity and social justice.

In order to get MAS to follow through on their word, we must collectively hold MAS accountable in creating a selective event that prevents luxury developers from appropriating Jane’s name. Let MAS know that if they are going to truly live up to their mission to uphold “community-based citizen planning” they MUST develop criteria to vet Jane’s walk leaders, even if it means a smaller event in 2018.

What is a Jane’s Walk?

Jane’s Walks are “Citizen-led walking tours towards community-based citizen planning” according to the official website. They are held each year in memory of community activist and writer Jane Jacobs who devoted her life to fighting community-killing urban renewal plans. Famously, when she learned that urban renewal czar Robert Moses was planning an expressway to cut through her beloved Washington Square Park, Jane did not stand by quietly: she organized alongside her neighbors, and was even arrested in a public hearing for her vocal opposition. If she were alive today, there is no doubt about what she would’ve done—she would protest the Friends of the BQX and repudiate MAS for allowing them to promote their luxury trolley in her name.

Why do we oppose the BQX?

The Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) is a luxury streetcar that would line the waterfront from Astoria to Sunset Park. According to its supporters, the system’s cost would be offset by tax revenue siphoned from an expected rise in property values along the route—in other words, through gentrification. This not only endangers working class renters, but also some of the few remaining manufacturing zones along the planned trolley route. A trolley would create significant pressure for rezonings that favor residential development which is far more lucrative than industrial companies. Express bus lanes would result in comparable improvements in commute time for a fraction of the price, according to Columbia University’s lead transportation David King—without causing gentrification.

If the BQX hurts working class people and manufacturing companies, who benefits?

A private real estate developer, Two Trees Management, conceived the BQX proposal and formed a nonprofit, Friends of the BQX, to support its realization. Its board of directors includes developers like Tishman Speyer, The Durst Organization and Rudin Management. Developers with existing or planned developments along the trolley route, like Park Tower Group, Alma Realty, Toll Brothers and Brookfield Properties, have donated a combined $245,000 to Mayor de Blasio’s now-defunct nonprofit, Campaign for One New York.

What can you do?

  • Send MAS a message demanding that they never again allow developers to appropriate Jane’s Walks for their profit-motivated schemes. MAS must develop criteria for selecting Jane’s Walks leaders, and that criteria should be informed by members of the community. Contact MAS President Elizabeth Goldstein directly at egoldstein[at]mas.org. For additional staff contacts and phone numbers, see the MAS directory.
  • Sign this petition and demand that Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer say no to the luxury trolley that would run through his district. Although Jimmy has expressed concern over the developments, he has yet to express his unconditional opposition, insinuating that it is too early in the planning phases. As vigilant community members we know that this is false. The time to fight community-killing plans is now—not when the City rams a fully baked plan through the community review process.

For Further Reading:

∙         Developers along planned streetcar route donate to de Blasio (NY Daily News)

∙         The Streetcar Hustle (Jacobin)

∙         De Blasio’s Trolley is on a Collision Course with the City’s Manufacturing Sector (Crains) 

∙         Critics say de Blasio’s proposed streetcar will do more to boost real estate values than improve transit (Crains)

Response to JVB Regarding the April 20th Queens March Against Gentrification

First and foremost we want to again extend our deepest condolences to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and his family for their recent loss. We know that family and community is everything. That is why we unanimously agreed to cease all activities for the weekend after our march to give space for healing. And it is also why we must continue our work to protect our neighborhoods.

This is an open response to a letter which Jimmy’s aides disseminated at the April 20 Queens March Against Gentrification, where nearly a dozen grassroots organizations and 75 residents gathered to demand Jimmy’s opposition to three mega-developments planned for West Queens: the BQX Trolley, Sunnyside Yards development and Long Island City Core rezoning.

In his letter, Jimmy claims to share our “concerns” about these plans which he admits would do “more harm than good”; however, he refuses to unequivocally oppose these projects, implying it is too soon to act on these plans.

Hunter College Urban Studies professor and author of Zoned Out! Sam Stein has a message for Jimmy in solidarity with our neighborhoods:

“Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer claims that “the truth is none of these proposal are even close to being enacted.” That’s true—planning takes a long time, and there’s a big gap between when plans are announced and when they’re implemented. But the fact remains that there is no time like the present to take a strong stand against them. Once plans get codified, debate is confined to the margins of policy—exact ratios of inclusionary zoning, precise Area Median Income ranges, street-level transit routes, and so on. If the plans under consideration are fundamentally bad for working class residents, then these types of negotiations hardly result in the scale of changes necessary to make a difference.  Once plans are brought to ULURP [the Uniform Land Use Review Process], they almost always pass in one form or another.

During his 12 years in office, Mayor Bloomberg’s City Planning Commission initiated 123 rezonings; 122 of them succeeded. The sole exception, the Kingsbridge Armory, fell apart at the last minute due to failed labor negotiations. Every single other one passed in some form or another, and often quite consistent with their initial proposal. More recently, Mayor de Blasio has initiated several rezonings, but most of them have floundered before going through the formal ULURP process. In Flushing, for example, oppositional signals from the councilmember lead DCP to withdraw their proposal. Once these plans move farther along in the process, they take on a great deal of institutional inertia and are quite difficult to stop.

The plans proposed for western Queens [the BQX, the Long Island City Core Rezoning and Sunnyside Yards Development] are a threat to long-term working class residents and new immigrants alike, and the time to fight them is now.”

Jimmy also requested a meeting with organizers of the march, and we must publicly decline this invitation. We firmly believe that dialogue between elected officials and their constituents should be public—not behind closed doors where corruption breeds. If Jimmy is genuinely interested in hearing the concerns of community, we invite him to participate in a meeting/ forum to dialogue with endorsers of this campaign, that is open and public, for all concerned residents to see.

Again we would like to thank everybody who supported and participated even in the smallest ways in this campaign thus far, and encourage everybody to continue fighting together. We will defend our neighborhoods!

Why Fighting Gentrification is Connected to Fighting Trump

Unlike no president before, President Trump is a product of the powerful real estate industry which fueled his rise to power, and it is going to take an equally powerful fight from the people to strike his source of influence.

Trump’s fortune, which includes 1.7 billion in NYC real estate assets, made it possible for him to fuel his brand and business ventures, not to mention pour $66 million into his presidential campaign. And he will continue enriching his family’s real estate business in office. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner remains a beneficiary of Kushner Cos—the family real estate business which has made over $7 billion in acquisitions over the past decade and boasts over 20,000 apartments in its portfolio, with a focus on “up and coming neighborhoods” like Astoria, Queens and Jersey City.

In the book, How to Kill a City Peter Moskowitz explains gentrification as a process of “reorienting the purpose of cities away from being spaces that provide for the poor and middle classes and toward spaces that generate capital for the rich,” and that is exactly what is happening under the Trump administration.

As president, Trump has started this process by appointing the wealthiest cabinet in U.S. history to date, and more recently, by releasing a preliminary budget with draconian funding cuts across the board for essential housing and social service programs.

The White House budget includes over $6 billion in cuts to the federal housing budget—eliminating the HOME program that provides housing for very low-income residents and reducing the already meager budget for public housing, senior housing and housing subsidies for people with disabilities. The budget also proposed over $4 billion in cuts to community service programs from the Department of Health and Human Services, and $2.4 billion from the Department of Transportation.

These cuts will pressure cities to run into the open arms of private corporations and luxury developers—like Trump and Kushner—to meet essential housing and transit needs. This is already playing out in New York City, where for example Council Member Ritchie Torres is calling public private partnership “the salvation of public housing” which faces a $17 billion deficit. On the transportation side, Mayor de Blasio has allied with luxury developers like Two Trees Development to push for a new Brooklyn Queens Connector trolley which would be financed by rising property values along the entire waterfront from Astoria to Sunset Park.

As Trump and our elected officials push forward with these pro-gentrification policies, it will be up to the people to unify and take back our power.

We don’t have to look too far back in history for lessons and inspiration. Against incredible odds, the Montgomery bus boycott- led by poor, working women of color- resulted in a Supreme Court decision against the state of Alabama. It was successful largely for two reasons: (1) thousands of ordinary people mobilized together around a common cause, putting fear into those in power; and (2) by refusing to ride buses which perpetuated a racist system, the people directly hurt the purse strings of the state (at the time, black Americans made up over 75% of the bus ridership).

We can use these same tactics to fight Trump, by uniting as neighbors and citizens against pro-gentrification policies which prioritize the wealthy over the most vulnerable and by taking actions which deliberately attack the source of his influence, the real estate industry.

Join the fight in West Queens by signing a petition to oppose three mega-developments that will benefit luxury real estate developers: the BQX Trolley, Sunnyside Yards, and the Long Island City Core Rezoning, and join over 100 neighbors on April 20th to tell Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer to say no to luxury development perpetuated by the likes of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner. Click here to RSVP and join our movement.

Response to Van Bramer’s Non-Opposition & What We Mean By “Rent Freeze”

In a recent Sunnyside Post article published on March 21, Jimmy Van Bramer responded to our call for a protest against the LIC core rezoning, Sunnyside Yards development and BQX trolley.  We understand that all three of these development projects will result in massive displacement in western Queens.

Van Bramer says that he has “publicly expressed great concern and skepticism about all of the Mayor’s proposals.”  The working class of western Queens is not just concerned about out-of-character development – we are convinced that these development projects would raise property values and rents, and ultimately displace us from the area.

We know because we have eyes, and we have seen what has happened to every working class Black, Latino, Asian, & immigrant neighborhood over recent years as a result of harmful development projects and upzonings.  Williamsburg, Harlem, Chinatown, LES, Park Slope – the list goes on.  We know because we have read the insightful work of urban planning and geography experts Tom Angotti (Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at CUNY Hunter) and Sam Stein (PhD candidate in geography at the CUNY Graduate Center).  We know because many of us have already been displaced from Brooklyn and Manhattan, and we have seen this exact process play out before.

What we are asking for is a concrete understanding that we are in a crisis.  Working class communities in queens are under attack – rising rents are driving out our neighbors and local small businesses, and immigrant communities are undergoing nothing short of an ethnic cleansing.  This is a direct result of politicians, city planners and developers who play games with the real estate market to drive up land values and maximize tax revenue and profit.  Drastic measures are necessary.

Therefore, we are demanding unconditional opposition to upzonings and harmful development projects, and urging support for a city-wide moratorium on upzonings and a universal rent freeze.

Jimmy has a choice: He can side with the people and vocally oppose these outrageous developments, or by his meager “concern” be complicit with the very developers who are ready to destroy our neighborhoods for profit. The decision Jimmy makes will prove how he really lives out his “Queens values”.

What is a rent freeze?

Jimmy Van Bramer says he is in favor of a rent freeze.  We are not sure that he understands what we mean.  We are not calling for a rent freeze on rent regulated apartments, but rather a city-wide, universal rent freeze on all units in the city.  Until we achieve a legitimate, long term solution, we demand that we be allowed the dignity to remain in our homes and neighborhoods regardless of what the so-called free market says.

A History of the Woodside BID

Plans are underway for the establishment of a BID(Business Improvement District) in Woodside.

What is a BID?

In short, a BID is a nonprofit organization with a board of majority property owners that oversees economic activity and usage of public space in a given area.  The BID is advertised as a beneficial public-private partnership that contributes to the well-being of the neighborhood by providing services like sanitation and security, or by engaging in projects to improve lighting, signage, painting, etc.  Sounds nice!  However, the BID can also act as a political lobbying force in the interests of landlords.  Most importantly, the BID can be used to encourage large scale corporate development in areas that are seen as undesirable, such as low income immigrant neighborhoods.

In reality, BIDs destroy neighborhoods.  We understand that a BID would help speed up gentrification by leading to a massive increase in property value, the closure of local businesses in favor of large corporate chains, the loss of immigrant jobs, police harassment of immigrants, criminalization of homelessness, and ultimately, the displacement of all working class people from the neighborhood.  The evidence of the negative impact of BIDs is found in over 70 current locations where BIDs now exist in NYC. We must prevent the Woodside BID at all costs.  In order to understand what we’re up against, here is a brief history of the Woodside BID proposal:

Four years ago, a meeting was held at St. Sebastian’s Parish Hall during which a very small handful of local officials pushed the idea forward for the creation of a BID on Roosevelt Avenue.  At that time, those behind the BID proposal included:

City Councilmember – Jimmy Van Bramer
Former Community Board 2 Chair – Joe Conley
Chair of Woodside on the Move – Bob Piazza
Owner of Ottomanelli Burgers – Frank Ottomanelli

Fortunately, the BID failed to garner any interest from local business owners and even small landlords.  Enter QEDC(Queens Economic Development Corporation).  In November of 2014, QEDC was given a “Capacity Building” grant by SBS(Small Business Services), the city agency that assists nonprofit development organizations in the establishment of BIDs through their Neighborhood Development Division.  One of the Capacity Building grant requirements is the creation of a “corridor assessment” document, to be used for the “commercial revitalization” of Roosevelt Avenue between 57th St. and 70th St.  This initial grant was used to try to warm up small business owners and community members to the idea of nonprofit intervention, and ultimately, the establishment of a BID.

13432337_10156995668935697_7102105170435010655_n.jpg

On June 23rd of 2016, QEDC presented their corridor assessment to community members at a public meeting at Woodside on the Move.  QEDC also announced their plans to start a merchants association.  SBS sees a merchants association as a precursor to the BID, as they explain in their Merchant Organizing grant:

Screen Shot 2016-11-06 at 11.34.44 AM.png

According to an amNewYork article published on August 3, 2016, Bob Piazza, the Chair of Woodside on the Move, has explicitly stated that the merchants association is being used(like a Trojan horse) to gain support for a BID:

“In a second attempt to get local merchants to band together to improve their area, Woodside on the Move has teamed up with the Queens Economic Development Corporation to try to form an association. […] Bob Piazza, president of Woodside on the Move, said he hopes the business association will allow merchants to see the benefits of pooling their resources together and potentially create excitement about future BID proposals.”

As we speak, the QEDC and Bob Piazza are working to establish the Woodside BID.  In response, Queens Anti-Gentrification Project is kicking off a campaign to defeat the BID and keep QEDC out of our neighborhood.  We have many activities planned out over the next few months, and we invite those who live in or around the neighborhood to join us and defend Woodside from gentrification and displacement.

To get involved, message us on Facebook or email us at QueensAntiGentrification@gmail.com

Stop the Phipps Development! Community Meeting, April 28th, 7:00 PM

 

Untitled.png
Proposed 10-Story Development on Barnett Ave. Sunnyside

Worried about rising rents? Scared that you will be forced to move? Construction of a large housing development has been proposed on the Woodside-Sunnyside border that will lead to higher rents, overcrowding, parking trouble, and even the loss of our neighborhood. But we can stop it!

Join us at a community meeting on April 28th at Sunnyside Community Services and make your voice heard.

Thursday, April 28th
7:00PM-9:00PM
Sunnyside Community Services
43-31 39th St, Sunnyside, NY 11104

The Anti-Gentrification Movement Will Not Be Funded

This Monday, the City Council, along with Real Affordability for All (a coalition of primarily nonprofit organizations) announced its support for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed housing plan.  They are expected to vote in favor of the plan next week.  For those who aren’t familiar with the proposal, please refer to our previous post: MIH and ZQA: de Blasio’s Trojan Horse

“MIH and ZQA will allow for more rapid ‘up-zoning’ (i.e. the ability to build larger and more profitable kinds of developments) across the entire city. As part of the deal, developers will be forced to make a certain portion of their developments ‘affordable.’  Politicians only like to talk about this ‘affordable’ component, when in fact MIH and ZQA have very little to do with affordable housing and are really aimed at generating profits. To garner public support for this plan, the DeBlasio administration has devised a very savvy and insincere media campaign: it aims to create 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade. What DeBlasio doesn’t tell us, however, is how many housing units will become unaffordable as a result of the gentrification brought on by MIH and ZQA. Undoubtedly, the gentrification that results will lead to rapid rent increases in neighborhoods across the city – the 182,000 residents living in East New York, for example, are guaranteed to see their rent increase across the board if rezoning passes in their neighborhood.”

We understand that this plan will be devastating for the entire city.  So why in the hell did a coalition of social justice nonprofits help to facilitate the plan’s approval?

The Hidden Role of Large Nonprofits
Real Affordability for All describes itself as “New York City’s most powerful housing coalition,” aiming to “address homelessness, NYCHA, the preservation of existing affordable housing, and the development of new affordable housing.”

The coalition had originally planned a demonstration and even threatened acts of civil disobedience against the proposal, all of which it ultimately postponed because of “progress” in the negotiation process with the Mayor.  This week, RAFA has canceled all future protest relating to MIH/ZQA and instead has officially come out in full support of the proposal, declaring it a victory for low-income New Yorkers:

CdlYmurXEAA1xbr.jpg
Image posted on RAFA social media
One of the main concessions leading to RAFA’s endorsement of MIH/ZQA was the alteration of the Area Median Income requirement to include more low-income residents (which we know will do nothing to stop gentrification). Another major aspect of their endorsement was an agreement by the Mayor’s office to engage in a study on housing affordability.  Are we expected to believe that a study will actually lead to anything?

What we see here is the usage of social justice language and the implementation of tactics such as civil disobedience by very powerful organizations in order to appear as if they represent the interests of working class residents.  The result: A potential mass housing movement is co-opted, and dissent is dismissed for a few bread crumbs as people who don’t know any better follow these large organizations like lambs to the slaughter.

This is what large nonprofits do.  They’re structured in a self-serving way which places focus on growth and forces them to meet the conditions of funders and donors.  They can’t upset the status quo.  Instead of opposing legislation outright, they’ll say “if you pass this legislation, it needs to include X or Y.”  The result, in this case is gentrification and displacement going unopposed – their advancement is even seen as a victory.  For anybody who knows the implications of MIH/ZQA, the passage of this plan is far from a victory.

The Solution is Easy
By allowing career activists and opportunists to lead the anti-gentrification movement from the helm of powerful organizations, we relinquish our agency.  Gentrification and displacement will continue until we come together as a community and lead our own movement from within our neighborhoods.  When we do, we will stop it and we will reverse it.  We will win!

Reach us at queensantigentrification@gmail.com

NOTE:  We want to be clear that we do not know which of the RAFA coalition organizations pushed for this compromise deal with the Mayor, and also that we do not believe ALL nonprofit organizations are guilty of co-option.  We recognize the important work done by many of the city’s smaller nonprofits, and we would never discredit or delegitimize that work.

Phipps to Develop Despite Community Opposition

On October 26, 2015 Council-member Jimmy Van Bramer held a community meeting for residents of Sunnyside to hear a presentation by Phipps Houses about the new 10-story residential development and rezoning they are planning for the area near Barnett Avenue and 50th Street. According to some in attendance, there was a lot of opposition to the proposal. After speaking with many more residents in the area, we found that the opposition to the new Phipps development is widespread. Despite opposition, Phipps went ahead and filed a rezoning application at DCP with the intent of developing the area. Since Council-member Van Bramer held a community meeting with residents, and since we wanted to give the Council-member the benefit of the doubt, a member of Queens Anti-Gentrification Project visited his office for a statement last week. Not surprisingly, we were told that the Council-member would not be making any comments regarding the Phipps development. We were left wondering – does Van Bramer really value the thoughts and feelings of the people in Sunnyside? Or did he hold the community meeting for show?

Untitled2
Screen Capture of Barnett Ave rezoning application from DCP website

Regardless of his position, one thing is clear: we need to get organized to oppos this development and all others that will be ushered in after City Council passes the MIH and ZQA zoning laws. As a rule, this organization will not come from any of those holding political office. Instead, it needs to grow directly out of our neighborhoods themselves, block by block.

For more information these zoning laws, please check out our previous blog post MIH and ZQA: DeBlasio’s Trojan Horse.


NOTE: On February 29, 2016, members of Queens Anti-Gentrification Project filed a FOIL request to get a copy of the Phipps rezoning application from DCP, something that’s usually kept hidden from public until DCP staff and the developers polish it up enough for public scrutiny. Of course, we will share the documents with our readers and neighbors in Queens.

RESOURCES FOR RESEARCHING PROPERTY AND LANDLORDS IN NYC

If we want to win, we need to be informed. Currently there’s imbalance in information between those fighting against unjust conditions and those that are in power. There are many projects that aim to level the playing field – this is one such project, albeit a small contribution.

Below are resources for doing property, building and owner research. If you have any questions regarding these resources or need help researching a particular property or policy, please contact us at: queensantigentrification@gmail.com


To begin, find the block and lot of the property you’re researching by entering the address in the first link below and clicking on the “location report” tab in the right-hand column.

GENERAL INFO AND DATASETS

DEEDS AND MORTGAGE INFORMATION

BUILDING INFORMATION

REZONING

SALES AND LAND VALUE

MISCELLANEOUS