Letter to Transit Workers Union

Mr. Samuelson,

We were surprised and troubled upon hearing the news that Transit Workers Union Local 100 had endorsed the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX). As neighbors working to keep Queens affordable for the working class, the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project (QAGP) unequivocally opposes the BQX for a number of reasons.

Our foremost concern is that the developer-backed project threatens further displacement of Queens and Brooklyn waterfront communities. But we also view the BQX in a context that sees politicians first cozying to organized labor for support, then caving to developer coercion against employment of union workers.

We explicitly oppose luxury development in all its manifestations — and in this particular case believe the developer sponsors of the BQX are simply using your union to garner support among working people as a means to further displace working people.

Dubbed the “gentrification express” by city hall staffers, the public-private project relies on the anticipated increased property values along its route for funding. The majority of the neighborhoods from Astoria to Sunset Park have already undergone swift deindustrialization, a fact which has left New York’s working class — once concentrated in these neighborhoods — underpaid and undervalued. Promises that the BQX will bring manufacturing back to our city are specious at best, considering the once industrial waterfront is actively being converted into an urban playground for the wealthy with projects like Sunset Park’s Industry City.

At a time when the protections and collective bargaining power of unionized workers are diminishing, we see working people penned into low-paying, harshly anti-union service sector industries and independently contracted jobs, which by nature deny workers any tangible benefits. It is our belief that there is an undeniable correlation between this shift and rising hostility towards workers city and nation-wide.

We’ve been down this road before. As you well know, before the existence of the TWU, New York’s subway lines were independently and privately owned. Until the 1935 Squeegee Strike — the TWU’s first organized strike — successive strike attempts by New York’s transit workers were broken. We remind you of this simply because TWU members carry on a rich legacy of collective power and we feel the endorsement of the BQX will ultimately undermine this legacy.

To endorse what amounts to an essentially private transit system, opens the transportation workers of New York City to the same type of harassment and anti-union sentiment that accompany all private companies on the road to profit.

We understand that you want to put your union to work. But as a representative of some 42,000 workers, the right of those workers — those New Yorkers — to affordable housing is ultimately jeopardized as luxury projects like the BQX come to our city.

The city and TWU’s interests would be better served by putting pressure on the governor to invest in our crumbling subway, an intricate and world-renowned transit system that serves some 6 million people daily and is in desperate need of a full-scale redevelopment — as the TWU knows better than anyone.

Additionally, the city could reach communities underserved by public transit with express bus lanes and material expansion of subways. Any of these alternatives would put TWU to work for a long time.

The Transit Workers of New York have long been the vanguard of what it is to be a New Yorker, serving not the wealthy 1%, but our neighbors and families.

We write to you as residents of Queens who see luxury redevelopment such as the BQX as the death knell in our borough’s reputation as a haven for working people the world over. We strongly ask you to reconsider the TWU’s endorsement of the BQX.

If you have any questions or concerns about how we might move forward with unity, please do reach out to us at your earliest convenience.

In solidarity,
Queens Anti-Gentrification Project

E: queensantigentrification@gmail.com

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Queens All-Out for East Harlem

Queens All Out for East Harlem

El Barrio, also known as East Harlem or Spanish Harlem (just don’t call it “SpaHa”), is alive with history and culture–Puerto Rican, African American, Mexican, Italian, Dominican and Asian—making it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. It’s not uncommon to find men playing congas on the street, as youth ride tricked-out bicycles to the tune of Hector Lavoe blasting from the radio. People stop in the street to chat up their neighbors and regulars congregate at Thomas Jefferson Park and local community gardens.

But with an imminent rezoning in the works, this strong sense of community and culture may soon come to an end. What happens in East Harlem—for better or for worse–will not just impact locals, but will have a ripple effect throughout the entire city.

What is the East Harlem Rezoning?

In 2015, Mayor De Blasio named East Harlem as one of 15 neighborhoods slated to be rezoned so that developers would get to build higher than ever before, allowing them to reap huge profits and incentivizing landlords to push out rent-stabilized tenants as property values rise. In the East Harlem Rezoning Plan, developers would be permitted to build three times higher than the current allowable height. Developers would be required to set aside a small percentage of these units that are “affordable” to households earnings up to $138,000. In other words, this new housing would not be affordable to the majority of East Harlem residents who make closer to $32,500.

How will the East Harlem Rezoning impact all New Yorkers?

Thanks to widespread community opposition across the city, to date, the De Blasio administration has only succeeded in rezoning one of the 15 neighborhoods in its plan – East New York in Brooklyn. With elections around the corner, the administration and City Council will be under increased pressure to revisit this strategy. A halt to the East Harlem Rezoning will not only benefit local residents, but all low-income residents in neighborhoods slated for rezoning including Long island City, Queens, the South Bronx, and Gowanus, Brooklyn, by setting a precedent for community resistance.

What can you do to support East Harlem Residents?

The East Harlem Rezoning is not inevitable. New Yorkers have successfully fought rezonings from Inwood to Flushing, and we can stop this one as well by joining together in solidarity to send a united message that we oppose all rezonings that benefit luxury developers at the expense of low-income and working class communities of color.

Join members of the Queens Anti Gentrification Project, El Barrio Unite, other activists, neighbors, and New Yorkers for a critical CB11 public hearing on the rezoning:

  • Location: Goldwurm Auditorium
  • Address: 1468 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10029
  • Date and Time: June 20th, Tuesday, 6:30-8:30pm
  • RSVP to the Facebook event

Sign and circulate this petition among your constituents.

For more information about the East Harlem rezoning, please read this article written by Comrade Roger Hernandez Junior, a lifelong 3rd generation resident of the neighborhood, and coordinator for the El Barrio Unite opposition to rezoning in East Harlem

For more information why we must reject all of the de-Blasio rezonings across the city, please read this City Limits editorial by Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association executive director Harry DeRienzo