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!