The public meeting began pleasantly enough at 4:30 PM in the main cafeteria of Aviation High School. Outside, Emily Sharp and her supporters handed out anti-Sunnyside Yards development lit.
When one entered, yummy pupusas were being served in the middle of the room, and on the sides were stations that described different aspects of the project. The New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), directing the meeting, had complete control.
One station was devoted to how to mitigate the effects of climate change, no doubt important as its effects become more impactful especially in the form of larger storms.
Then at around 6:20 PM, local activists stormed the public meeting and shut it down. One activist got on top of a table and led a human microphone to initiate the shut down.
A coalition comprised of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, Queens Neighborhoods United, and Centro Corona led a teach-in to discuss the history of the EDC, their previous developments in Hudson Yards, and their involvement in trying to get the Amazon HQ2 project around the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
In the beginning, one man questioned whether they were Sunnyside natives, to which activist responded that he was one.
Tom Angotti and James DeFilippis, professors in urban planning, led the discussion and fielded questions from the crowd that had gathered. There was a question and answer session about the EDC and Sunnyside Yards led by the professors.
Later, The crowd moved into a hallway to stop a question and answer session being led by the EDC. They were racuous, shouting “let us in,” no doubt trying to take control of the Q&A session being held in the Teacher’s Cafeteria near the Main Cafeteria.
At one point, activists led by Jonathan Bailey, co-chair of Queens DSA, attempted to take control of the building’s microphone system to relay messages, but were checked by a government official.
One activist commented that the EDC’s plans were like a Disney World project and not an actual project that would meet the needs of people living in Sunnyside.
There were rumors that the project was estimated to cost around $22 billion dollars, more than the initial estimate for the Hudson Yards.
The EDC officials were at a loss to what to do. At the beginning of the teach-in, one member tried to ask them to keep it down, but he was instantly drowned out by the other activists. The EDC officials and assoicated firms stood to the side next to their stations to field questions from whomever approached them.
After being questioned, one EDC official led me on a mini-tour of the stations, not answering my question on what their reaction was to the whole proceeding. She ended up leading me to two of her colleagues to further answer questions about turning the development into high-quality public housing.
One of them told me she was happy that the teach-in happened, as that meant they were hearing from different voices in the community.
I was quite surprised by this, but then again she was probably trying to put a brave face on. After the teach-in ended, the activists regrouped outside to plan their next steps. The night was considered a success.