Anthony Bourdain and the “Inevitably” Changing City

Earlier this month, Anthony Bourdain of the award-winning CNN travel series Parts Unknown took his viewers on a journey through Queens. Over steaming bowls of thenthuk (Tibetan hand-pulled noodle soup), tamales, and Korean food that is “more authentic than food in K-town,” Bourdain engaged locals in conversations about the future of Queens. For some of his interviewees, Queens is still a place where immigrants can “make it,” rising from rags to riches to live the American dream; but for others, the future is far less certain.

In true Bourdain fashion, he starts his conversations with street vendors. The street vendors of Queens provide their communities with meals which create a sense of “home away from home.” They also operate as extra eyes on the street, keeping their neighborhoods safe, and serve as unorthodox community spaces where locals can share updates from their lives and discuss current events. If all goes well, these street vendors will save enough to open up storefronts, providing a more financially secure future for the next generation. But Parts Unknown highlights that the path to ownership and financial stability for immigrants is often fraught with perils.

After losing her job in the world trade center after 9/11, Evelyn Coyotzi became a tamale vendor to support her family. Despite the popularity of her lovingly hand crafted tamales, the business struggled. She was arrested 15 times because, like thousands of other vendors, she could not get a license.

There are 20,000 street vendors in NYC, but only one in five vendors actually have a license because of an outdated NYC law from the 1980s which caps the number of street vendor licenses to 4,200. Vendors who can’t get a license face a tough choice: face hefty fines and arrests or enter the black market where vendors pay above-market prices to “rent” the rare city-issued licenses. According to the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, a permit that costs just $200 annually from the city may go for $25,000 on the black market.

Parts Unknown elevates one policy solution in an interview with Sean Basinski of the Street Vendor Project. The Street Vendor Modernization Act would double the number of street permits across NYC over a seven year-period starting on March 1, 2018. This is an important step, but does not fully address the issues that street vendors and other immigrants face as they seek to maintain their foothold in Queens.

As neighborhood demographics have been changing in Queens, there has been a push to get street vendors—even those with licenses—off the street. “If you get higher rents, nicer buildings, they’re not going to want a street cart out front,” said Bourdain. Working class people are also finding it harder to afford rents which have soared—so much that the average Queens resident spent over half their income on rent in 2016.

One of Bourdain’s interviewees brushes off these changes as the “story of New York”, implying that demographic shifts and displacement are inevitable. He misses the point.  Gentrification is never an accident. Gentrification happens when policy makers and developers deliberately collude to advance policies which benefit those with capital over poor and working class communities. In Queens, we see this through:

Collectively, these gentrification schemes will raise property values, while pushing out the street vendors and immigrants who Bourdain rhapsodizes in Parts Unknown. To truly protect Queens as a diverse and vibrant borough where working class people can thrive, we must fight for much more than just the Street Vendor Modernization Act; we must push for a comprehensive set of policies which put a break on the run-away luxury developments in Queens, while protecting those who are most vulnerable to getting pushed out of their homes and businesses by unscrupulous measure.

Here are a few ideas to stop gentrification in Queens:

  1. Pressure your local Council Member to stop land-use changes that favor corporate and luxury developer interests over poor and working class people. In NYC, most major land-use change requires a community-review process in order to move forward. While local community boards can weigh in on these decisions, their opinions are advisory-only. City Council on the other hand has the power to stop a land use change, and City Council almost always defers to the local Council Members. That is why we are demanding that our local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer oppose three major developments which we know will hurt our community: Long Island City Core Rezoning, Sunnyside Yards, and BQX trolley(Read more on the community-review process here). Pressure your local Council Member through direct calls, participation in protests, signing petitions(like this one), and gaining allies to join you in your cause. This strategy is particularly effective during election season, when Council Members are afraid of losing votes.
  2. Push for policies that prevent displacement of renters and businesses. Some neighborhood changes do not have to go through the community-review process. For example, a developer could build a luxury condo “as-of-right” on privately owned land which meets the height restrictions of the existing zoning code. But this could still have a major impact on the community. Once neighboring property owners recognize that the “neighborhood is changing” they may also raise rents in their buildings to take advantage of the market. Even property owners in rent stabilized buildings can use strategies such as intimidation to vacate apartments and “major capital investments” to push rents higher than the percentage set by the rent guidelines board. Proposed anti-displacement policies such as the Citywide Certificate of No Harassment and Small Business Jobs Survival Act could go a long way to protect the most vulnerable renters and small businesses in a speculative market.
  3. Demand genuine community-based planning. For the long-term survival of our communities, we must go beyond the whack-a-mole strategy of fighting each gentrification scheme which crops up; communities must be able to put forward their own, alternative plans which are enforceable by the city. Technically a community-based planning process exists, but too many roadblocks mean that these plans usually only come to fruition in whiter, wealthier communities. According to section 197-a of the 1989 New York City Charter, community boards have the right to put forward their own community-based plans. Yet out of more than 100 community plans that have been put forward in the last half century, only 13 have officially been approved as “197-a plans.” As Hunter Professor Tom Angotti explains in Zoned Out! Race, Displacement and City Planning in New York City we must radically rethink the way community planning works in New York City. That starts with vesting more decision-making authority in community boards; guaranteeing that every community board have a full-time trained planner who is knowledgeable about community-based planning; and holding community boards accountable to principles of social justice as too many boards openly discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity and fail to engage all corners of their neighborhood.

To learn more about how to get involved in building a movement, reach out to us at QueensAntiGentrification@gmail.com.

 

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

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“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!