July 20, 2019
Over the years we’ve seen the promising growth of many social movements, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter and #MeToo. These movements, and the hundreds of thousands involved in them, fundamentally changed the social and political landscape, forcing concessions from those in power. There has also been an increase in electoral activity, starting with the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign. Here in Queens, District 14 representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Queens DA candidate Tiffany Cabán have both emerged as self-avowed progressives, powered by a grassroots army of volunteers who are fed up with the system.
The increased focus on electoral politics, however, has created an opening for some politicians to rebrand themselves in the wake of this progressive wave. Corporate Democrats like Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer and Senator Michael Gianaris, who have built their political careers with the full support of the real estate industry and have done virtually nothing to address the rising cost of living, have affixed themselves to these progressive campaigns in an attempt to rehabilitate their image, while facing little to no accountability.
Similarly, large multi-million dollar nonprofits such as Make the Road New York and New York Communities for Change have been allowed to pass as grassroots groups – despite their massive funding streams and powerful allies – and, together with big labor unions, have sold us out time and time again at every critical juncture in local and city-wide housing politics.
Despite the recent progressive shift in local politics, much of the political landscape as described above is still deeply entrenched in a system and approach that is inherently pro-real estate. The next few years will be crucial if we want to advance the struggle against displacement and for popular control of housing. It is in this context that the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project is publicly releasing our organizational platform, along with a call for people to join us as we move forward at this decisive moment in the history of our city.
Our platform, which guides our work, clearly defines gentrification, not as an individual issue, but a systemic issue. It attempts to redirect conversations about development and affordable housing away from the intentionally misleading rhetoric that the political establishment has pushed on us for so many years. It calls for the disinvestment of our time and energy away from electoral political campaigns and instead toward building popular power and issuing concrete, radical demands. It fully opposes the NYPD and ICE as agents of displacement and state violence. Finally, it challenges the idea that everyday working people should put our trust into individuals who would be put into a position to sell us out for personal gain.