Community Leaders and Organizations Should Resign From the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee
The letter below calls on community leaders and organizations to resign from the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee. It will be mailed or emailed to April Simpson, President of Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association, Lisa Deller of Community Board 2, Melissa Orlando of Access Queens, and Sylvia White, Co-Chair of Justice for All Coalition.
Dear Steering Committee Members,
We are writing to respectfully request that you or your organization resign immediately from the Sunnyside Yard steering committee. Your presence on the committee, regardless of your position, serves to legitimize an undemocratic process, and ultimately helps to advance the goals of a small class of real estate developers and politicians against the interests of your friends and neighbors in Queens and NYC. As would have been the case with Amazon HQ2, development over Sunnyside Yard would undoubtedly lead to mass displacement, gentrification, and corporate handouts. It would put further strain on an already struggling MTA, threaten the small businesses that provide affordable goods to our communities, and create an exclusive enclave of luxury housing, high-end retail, and office space designed specifically for the rich. The developers and politicians know this to be the case, which is why Sunnyside Yard, and projects like it, require huge amounts of Public Relations work – the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee (and your participation in it) is part and parcel to this effort.
There is a growing trend among community-based groups to reject the crumbs from the table that developers and politicians would like us to be satisfied with when they invite us to sit down. More and more, grassroots organizations are finding these crumbs offensive, and instead are demanding a full meal. It is not enough that only some of us get to eat – that this or that constituency get some perks for signing on to support a development project – this tactic has run its course and even the most opportunistic politicians are starting to abandon it (for example, when Jimmy Van Bramer and Michael Gianaris rejected Amazon’s Community Advisory Committee). By collectively refusing to negotiate with those who want to displace us we ensure that no one gets left out.
We understand that some may want to genuinely participate on the steering committee in order to serve as a voice of opposition. To them, we say: you can do this, from the outside, without legitimizing the process and undermining the efforts of other groups. There are others who might see participation on the steering committee as a career opportunity or a chance to gain notoriety. To those people, we ask: please do not use the working class and immigrant communities of Queens to advance your own goals.
We cannot rely on the good will of developers or politicians to get us what we need to survive. Historically, we’ve been able to make the most progress when we reject compromise and piecemeal solutions, and, instead, demand the seemingly impossible.
We believe that development over Sunnyside Yard will irreversibly devastate Western Queens. We demand that the City Council and the Department of City Planning recognize this basic fact and forever abandon plans to develop over the site. Until then, community groups and leaders should boycott their gimmicks and join with the growing popular movement against gentrification and displacement.
April Simpson, President of Queensbridge Houses Tenants Association, Lisa Deller of Community Board 2, Melissa Orlando of Access Queens, Sylvia White, Co-Chair of Justice for All Coalition: please resign from the Sunnyside Yard Steering Committee.
Queens Anti-Gentrification Project