David Eisenbach is no different from any other sellout politician.

Earlier today Queens Anti-Gentrification Project posted on Facebook questioning why David Eisenbach thinks he deserves the title of “public advocate”. In it we speak to his narrow and inadequate vision for NYC residents, and question his alleged independence from the current political establishment. You can check out the post and video here. We’ve seen this individual appearing at events over the past year and promoting himself, and want to let people know – this caricature of a politician has been seen before, and we know how the story goes.


To quote our post: “Every election season a fresh round of politicians appear, saying they’ll “take on city hall”, showing up at activist rallies, and making promises they don’t plan on keeping. Every election season a portion of grassroots groups, non profits, and well intentioned individuals give their support to these candidates hoping that they’ll follow through and fight for them once in office. Then, after the votes are cast, and the politicians settle into their new role, the patronage requests start coming in, and the higher-ups who helped get them there in the first place start calling in their debts, a new reality sets in. This is unfortunately how it usually works. In the case of David Eisenbach, however, all signs point to him having already completely sold out, without even being on a ballot. Queens Anti-Gentrification Project wants SBJSA to pass, but Eisenbach will not be its champion – not when he is aligned with Corey Johnson and other special interests. More importantly, however, what the people really need goes far beyond the narrow vision Eisenbach has opportunistically presented: we want reparations for NYCHA residents who have been dealing with health issues due to lead, mold and other environmental issues, an end to Bill de Blasio’s “affordable housing” rezoning program (MIH/ZQA), and an end to NYPD and ICE’s harassment and violence against Black and Brown residents in NYC. On these questions, Eisenbach is either completely silent or woefully inadequate and, therefore, does not deserve the title of “public advocate”.

Listen to Eisenbach in his own words, saying that campaign slogans are just meant for the campaign trail and not really what happens once they get in office. Is this really a guy we can trust?”

David Eisenbach
David Eisenbach on Fox News saying what politicians say on the campaign trail is not what they do when they get in office.
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Queens Under Attack

Sunday, August 26th, Queens Anti-Gentrification Project will be hosting an event titled Defend Queens – Now or Never.

The event will include a discussion and update on the multiple mega-developments threatening Western Queens and the rest of the borough. These developments include the LIC Core Rezoning (currently on hold), the LIC Tech Hub, LIC BID, Sunnyside Yard Development, and the BQX.

In a predictable development, a recent article quoted Queens Borough President, Melinda Katz, stating her support for the LIC Tech Hub.

Last month, we saw a sign of how bad things are getting when a top politician called for a freeze on new building permits in LIC and, in the same article, confirmed that the LIC Core Rezoning was on hold. These half-measures by politicians, though, are not enough – we need to build power through independent neighborhood-based organizations.

In the wake of the Inwood Rezoning, its clear that the city is never going to listen to the concerns of community members. That’s why we hope to see you this Sunday so we can continue to develop strategy for defeating  these developers and their sell-out politicians.

Defend Queens – Now or Never!

PRESS RELEASE (4-10-18): GROUPS FILED OPEN RECORDS REQUESTS ABOUT BQX TWO WEEKS BEFORE  LATEST CONTROVERSY: REQUEST FOR FEASIBILITY STUDY DENIED

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Michael Forest, 
queensantigentrification@gmail.com

GROUPS FILED OPEN RECORDS REQUESTS ABOUT BQX TWO WEEKS BEFORE  LATEST CONTROVERSY: REQUEST FOR FEASIBILITY STUDY DENIED

New York, NY (Apr. 10, 2018) – On March 28, 2018, the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, in collaboration with the news Web site Progress New York, filed a series of open records requests as part of an investigative effort to examine the Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX. A total of nine (9) open records requests have been filed under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

Highlights include:

  1. FOIL request seeking NYC Department of Buildings construction records submitted by developers along the route of the BQX. The purpose of this FOIL request is to ascertain whether developers positioned to profit from this public works project have been properly reporting rent-regulated apartments.
  2. FOIA request seeking U.S. Department of Justice records from the ‘pay to play’ Federal corruption probe against the de Blasio administration specifically related to the BQX.
  3. FOIL request seeking NYC Department of Environmental Protection records, demonstrating the extent to which the City is aware of the relationship between large construction projects and increased lead levels in tap water.
  4. Financial feasibility studies related to the BQX used as the basis of controversial memo in which the City admitted the BQX was not financially feasible, submitted to the Office of the Mayor.

A full list of the FOIA/FOIL requests filed can be found here: https://progressnewyork.news/research-data/

The open records requests were filed two weeks before Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) was put on the defensive about media reports that again questioned the financial feasibility of the BQX project.

FOIL Request Constructively Denied

After filing one of the FOIL Requests, the one requesting BQX feasibility studies from the Office of the Mayor, we were informed that the Office of the Mayor would require one (1) year before a determination would be made about the release of records. Progress New York obtained guidance from the Committee on Open Government based in Albany, and the guidance provided indicates that if an Agency subject to FOIL refuses to grant access to records beyond 20 business days, that refusal can be treated or interpreted as a denial of records that can be appealed. Progress New York will be appealing this constructive denial.

The deliberate withholding of records by the Office of the Mayor comes as Mayor de Blasio has admitted that the City of New York will be unable to pay for the BQX project using a controversial value capture tax system that will benefit some participants in the real estate industry, who own or plan to develop real property along the proposed route of the BQX project.

Appeal for Legal Assistance

Progress New York seeks pro bono legal assistance in preparation, if necessary, to litigate the denial of records. If any lawyer or legal group can provide pro bono legal support, please contact: contact@progressnewyork.new
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The City is Ours, if We Take It: Breaking Up With Neo-liberal Politicians

(To preface this article, we reiterate our support for the LIC Coalition’s demands and petition, which can be viewed here: https://www.change.org/p/city-elected-officials-save-the-waterfront-this-land-is-our-land-public-land-for-public-use. However, below, we outline our serious concerns related to the involvement of Jimmy Van Bramer in today’s protest.)

This afternoon (3/3/18) Big Real Estate’s beloved Jimmy Van Bramer will be headlining a rally to protest the giveaway of public land to private developers in Long Island City. His act of doing so will be steeped in the most palpable hypocrisy – on a soapbox, the politician will be enveloped by skyscrapers and development projects that he himself helped conceive of and promote. With luxury condos surrounding Saturday’s “This Land is Our Land” protest, let those present recall that Jimmy Van Bramer was hailed a champion of the LIC BID, received the most donations of any city council candidate (of which over $100,000 from Big Real Estate), was complicit in the destruction of 5-Pointz, is a staunch supporter of the BQX, among many other unforgivable positions.

Many of the developers who own skyscrapers in LIC donated repeatedly to Van Bramer, who, in turn, helped facilitate their development.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

One might wonder why such a stalwart supporter of Big Real Estate has agreed to speak at this protest. The answer simply comes down to opportunism: Van Bramer, a standard middle-of-the-road Democrat, no more “progressive” than De Blasio or Hillary Clinton, and just as neo-liberal, has had his left-wing persona damaged by groups who have fought to bring his record to light. Following his failed City Council Speaker bid and his subsequent announcement that he will be running for Queens Borough President, the politician seeks to reestablish himself as a leader of the “#resistance” and cement support from neighborhood groups going forward. Therefore, after an enormous community effort, he has chosen to support this one cause. But at what price?

Accidentally Selling Out Your Neighbors

In short: The mere presence of Jimmy Van Bramer is an affront to the work so many have done and to all those who are currently getting priced-out and displaced because of his policies.

Politicians, especially ones with Jimmy Van Bramer’s record, do not do things out of the goodness of their heart. Each move is calculated, with contingencies and hidden clauses, all arranged to promote their political career. If Jimmy Van Bramer was true to his word, he would call for a city-wide ban on the giveaway of public land to private developers (he won’t – remember, he voted for the Bedford-Union Armory deal). If Jimmy Van Bramer were really here for his constituents, he would fight for 100% low-income PUBLIC housing, not De Blasio’s public/private partnership through MIH/ZQA. If Jimmy Van Bramer was a champion of “#queensvalues”, as he proclaims to be, he would have adamantly rejected the BQX (aka the Gentrification Express) long ago.

If Jimmy Van Bramer was true to his word, he would call for a city-wide ban on the giveaway of public land to private developers (he won’t – remember, he voted for the Bedford-Union Armory deal). If Jimmy Van Bramer were really here for his constituents, he would fight for 100% low-income PUBLIC housing, not De Blasio’s public/private partnership through MIH/ZQA. If Jimmy Van Bramer was a champion of “#queensvalues”, as he proclaims to be, he would have adamantly rejected the BQX (aka the Gentrification Express) long ago.

The dangers of allowing Jimmy Van Bramer to headline any rally related to land use, displacement or gentrification is two-fold: first, when the time comes, he will call in his debts. Secondly, and more importantly, it comes at the price of potentially accidentally selling out your neighbors. For example, Jimmy Van Bramer has promised that Queens NYCHA developments will not get privatized through Next Generation NYCHA, but what about our friends in the Bronx, Harlem or Brooklyn? As a City Council member, does he not owe it to all NYC residents to push for fair and just housing policy, not just for those who’s votes he conveniently needs? Another example: many have been fighting for Jimmy Van Bramer to reject the BQX, a position he has declined to take. How does allowing Jimmy Van Bramer to headline a rally related to gentrification help other causes that are just as important? Instead of collectively strengthening our position, giving Jimmy Van Bramer a platform does the exact opposite.

Reforms Not Reformism

Queens Anti-Gentrification Project endorses the idea of “reforms without reformism”, meaning that we refuse to work alongside those politicians we see so clearly are our enemies. Instead, we strongly believe that neighborhood groups must come together, independent of politicians, and fight for and demand certain reforms that are so desperately needed – and to do so from a position of strength and solidarity. By remaining independent, politicians can either listen to or reject our demands, which is their alleged job anyway.

History has proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that working alongside neo-liberal Democrats consistently leads down a road that gives them the upper hand. Its time we reject this path and build our own power.

If you are tired of working with politicians like Jimmy Van Bramer and believe in the need for independent grassroots groups and civic engagement, please feel free to get in contact.

If you want to read more about Jimmy Van Bramer’s record, you can check out our other blog posts here.

We demand a city-wide ban on the give away of public land!

Triple Threat Letter to Jimmy Van Bramer

Dear Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer:

We are writing this letter to give voice to hundreds of neighbors, small businesses, community board members, and other local stakeholders within our district who are deeply concerned about the future of their communities and who signed a petition urging you to oppose a “triple-threat.”

Every year, it is becoming increasingly unaffordable to live in District 26. As West Queens is experiencing a large building boom, rents and home prices have skyrocketed. In Long Island City, which is now the fastest growing neighborhood in the country, an average one-bedroom now costs $3,237. These high rents not only make it hard for LIC residents to stay but also pressure surrounding neighborhoods. As just one example, in Sunnyside, this past summer, a home sold for a record $1.9 million.

Beyond soaring property values, the overdevelopment of our neighborhoods has also paid a heavy toll on our infrastructure and environment: our subway lines are highly congested (with the 7 train being one of the worst offenders in the city) our schools are some of the most overcrowded city wide; our neighborhoods have some of the highest shortages of park space in the city; and our waterfront is endangered by overdevelopment.

This development did not happen by accident, or by the so-called “free-market;” the destruction of our neighborhoods is the direct result of irresponsible planning and public policies that favor luxury real estate developers and those with capital over everyone else. Specifically, these include the 421-a tax abatement that gives tax breaks to the largest luxury developers in LIC like Tishman Speyer and Rockrose, and rezonings for higher density which significantly enriched these same developers by allowing them to build super-tall residential towers that rival Manhattan. This not only includes neighborhood rezonings like the ones we have seen in LIC, but also spot rezonings, like the one you approved to allow the Wolkoff brothers to tear down Five Pointz and replace it with a luxury residential development.

As if this weren’t enough, we have learned that the Mayor has plans to encourage even more development in our communities—development that we know will not be affordable for low-income, or even middle-income New Yorkers. Specifically, he has planned a triple-threat, which if collectively passed would drastically change the future of West Queens. These include:

The BQX Trolley is a private trolley that would run along the waterfront in  Astoria, Queens and run through Long Island City all the way to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, displacing low-income residents and businesses along its entire stretch. This proposal may be in the “planning” phase, but we know enough about the plan to know that we do not need a luxury trolley in our neighborhoods. The plan’s financing is based on a value capture model—which is a euphemism for raising property values all along the waterfront, to be recaptured and help pay for the operations. Furthermore, as explained by Hunter Professor Sam Stein in the recent documentary, The Gentrification Express: Breaking Down the BQX, and a leaked confidential memo from the Mayor Bill de Blasio’s BQX advisory team to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, we have learned that even the $2.5 billion will not be enough to cover the costs, which are likely to far exceed this amount and come out of our tax dollars. This money could be much better used to address our existing 7 train issues, adding new bus routes to transit desserts, and improving “Access-A-Ride” car services that have dismally failed our most vulnerable seniors and neighbors with disabilities.

The Sunnyside Yards, where the city plans to build a new neighborhood that would comprise mostly of luxury housing. Earlier this year, the city released a feasibility study with various development scenarios. In every scenario, market-rate housing far outweighed any affordable housing or community use. At this early stage, the study predicts that this development could cost as much as $19 billion—that is $19 billion that could be put to much better use, such as covering the severe capital gap in NYCHA public housing, and investing in true low-income housing.

The Long Island City Core rezoning is the city’s plan to encourage more mixed-use, commercial development in LIC. While additional commercial space for existing, Queens-based small businesses and affordable studios would be desirable, given the already high density of LIC, we know that these new spaces will not be affordable. The city also claims that the rezoning would require developers to build additional “affordable units” through the Mayor’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan. These additional units would be minimal as developers already have significant incentives through programs like ‘Affordable Housing New York’ which provides a 35-year tax break in exchange for building some “affordable units” in neighborhoods like LIC. We also know that units built through MIH are truly not affordable, as they are for households making an average of 60% of the area median income (approx. $50,000 for a household of three), and can also be for households making well over $100,000.

Furthermore, we are deeply concerned with the planning process itself, which to date has minimized resident participation, with minimal notice given to community residents and discussion formats that limit participation. In fact, during a recent planning meeting, residents were only able to present their thoughts after they demanded a town-hall format and seized the microphone from city planners.

During that town-hall, residents agreed: the only rezoning that should be considered in LIC is a downzoning to correct the mistakes of the past.

We are directing this these concerns to you, because while these proposals may come from the Mayor’s office, all three of these developments will eventually come to you for a vote. We also know that in cases where multiple Council Members are involved (such as the BQX proposal), you wield influence as the majority leader. The real estate industry has much to gain from your votes, and so we were not surprised to see that you raised nearly half a million dollars in campaign contributions–even while running unopposed. That is also why we were not surprised to find through our research (which was confirmed by an independent investigation by City Limits) that you are a top recipient of real estate money, accepting the most real estate dollars, second only to Council Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito.

 

We have heard you say that you are “concerned” about the triple-threat, and that these campaign contributions you have received from Luxury Real Estate Developers do not influence your decisions. If that is the case, we want you to put those words into action, specifically by challenging the Mayor and openly opposing these developments that will further destroy our communities.

We have also heard you say that these plans are too early in the planning stages, that action will come later, but we know that this is false. Once any of these plans make it to the city’s formal review process, Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), it will be extremely difficult for residents to influence the final outcomes, which are ultimately decided by the city, and voted on by you, our councilman. That is why Sunset Park residents (successfully) demanded that Council Member Menchaca withdraw his support from the BQX (he now admits that “the BQX is predicated on having a successfully gentrified neighborhood”) and that is why we are calling on you to stop the triple-threat now.

We are also collectively calling on you to fight for full funding of NYCHA public housing, which suffers from a $17 billion capital deficit as well as a city-wide rent freeze. We learned that you have called for a “city-wide rent freeze” in your re-election campaign platform, but we have yet to hear anything from you about how you plan to implement one across all residential and commercial units. Now that you have used this platform to win, we demand to know what is your plan to make this a reality for Queens residents who are in desperate need of housing protections.

To date, over 800 neighbors have joined us in signing a petition, calling on you to oppose these developments. These signatures have been collected collaboratively by Queens neighbors and grassroots groups including: Democratic Socialists of America – Queens Branch; Peoples Power Assemblies; Queens Anti Gentrification Project; Queens Is Not For Sale; and SPARC (Serve the People – Awaken Revolutionary Consciousness). Please find the paper signatures attached to the email, along with these additional online signatures.

This petition is only the beginning. For as long as these developments threaten our communities, we will continue to do the work of informing our neighbors and organizing with them to hold you, and all those in power accountable to do the right thing for the future of our families, neighbors and beloved communities.

Sincerely,

Queens Neighbors

Queens Anti Gentrification Project
Queens Is Not For Sale
SPARC
Democratic Socialists of America – Queens
Peoples Power Assemblies

Long Island City does not Need a Vertical ‘Country-Club’ on Public Land

Originally published on CityLimits.org: https://citylimits.org/2017/10/12/cityviews-long-island-city-does-not-need-a-vertical-country-club-on-public-land/

There’s something different about the newest luxury towers planned for Long Island City’s waterfront. The private developer, TF Cornerstone, has already developed 6 waterfront LIC properties, but this time, it plans to build on public, city-owned land—one of the few remaining parcels in Long Island City.

Earlier this year, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) announced its selection of TF Cornerstone to redevelop the public site. Considering that Mayor de Blasio has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from private developers, including TF Cornerstone, the “carrots” offered in this deal for Queens residents should be considered with a generous grain of salt:

  • 250 units of affordable housing: The so-called “affordable” units will be out of reach for truly low-income residents—and even these units will make up only 25 percent of the total 1,000 residential units that will be primarily luxury housing. The inclusion of affordable housing is not a gift; but rather, the bare minimum requirement for TF Cornerstone to qualify for 35-year tax breaks.
  • Approx. one-acre park with canoe and kayak launch point: This park will not relieve the shortage of green space as it would primarily serve as a backyard for the new luxury towers which alone will house 1,000 new households.
  • Public school: Again, this project will not relieve the overcrowding of LIC schools as it will simultaneously bring in 1,000 new households. More households means more children who need schools.
  • Thousands of new jobs: The lead selling point for this project is that it would create 4,000 jobs; however, more than half of the jobs (2,500) will be temporary construction jobs.
  • New industrial space: Finally, the crowning jewel of the project is industrial space managed by a nonprofit organization. However, this “affordable” industrial component actually makes up less than 10 percent of the massive 515,000 square feet of industrial, commercial, and retail space that TF Cornerstone plans to build—and profit from.

What would another TF Cornerstone development look like?

TF Cornerstone has already developed numerous towers including the 4540 Center Boulevard building right next to the proposed redevelopment site. These developments include tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, billiards, theater, gyms and more —an intentional design to ensure residents circulate disposable income and time within their building, rather than walking the actual neighborhood where they might support existing local businesses.

Our residents can indulge in a country-club-like atmosphere without leaving their own street,” bragged Sofia Estevez, TF Cornerstone’s executive vice president, in a recent statement.

As City Limits has previously reported, over 95 percent of all recent Long Island City developments have been market rate housing (read: unaffordable), so it is hard to imagine that the neighborhood truly needs another country club—let alone one that is built with public support.

Yes, Queens residents need new jobs, parks and affordable housing – but we can in fact achieve these goals without luxury housing. There are dozens of nonprofit developers across NYC that would readily seize the opportunity to develop true community space and affordable housing, if they weren’t always overlooked by the city for private developers like TF Cornerstone, Jonathan Rose Companies and L&M Developer Partners.

Can this project be stopped? – YES!

The public site is zoned for manufacturing use and therefore a luxury residential tower cannot be built as-of-right. To change the zoning, the project will have to go through the formal community review process, the Uniform Land Review Process (ULURP). Once in ULURP, the project will require an advisory vote from the community board’s land use committee and full board. And most importantly, it will require a vote from City Council, which almost always defers to the local City Council Member.

In other words, if Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer opposes this project, it is dead.

Only a few months ago, Crown Heights residents succeeded in convincing their local Council Woman and Borough President to oppose a similar project in Brooklyn where the same agency, EDC, sought to privatize another public site, the Brooklyn-Union Armory. In that project, at least 50 percent of the rentals and 20 percent of the condos would be affordable, but Crown Heights residents wouldn’t be sold short. They mobilized and organized, and successfully pressured their local elected officials who are now calling for nothing short of a 100 percent affordable project. We can do the same in Queens.

Hundreds of residents have already signed onto an LIC Coalition petition against the TF Cornerstone project, and as more residents learn about this public land give-away to a “country-club” developer, this movement will only grow.

Time to Put the Brakes on De Blasio’s BQX Trolley Plan

According to newly released documentary, Gentrification Express, it’s time to put the brakes once and for all on the BQX trolley plan.

In 2016, Mayor de Blasio announced a proposal for an above-ground streetcar that would link Brooklyn and Queens, following the trend to use trolleys to promote tourism and real estate development from Portland to Washington D.C.  The Brooklyn Queens Connector (known as the BQX) would link 10 neighborhoods along a 15 mile route stretching from Astoria, Queens to Sunset Park, Brooklyn. De Blasio and private real estate developers, represented by the “Friends of the BQX,” extoll the trolley as a model public-private partnership that would create jobs and bridge two boroughs as they are experiencing a development boom along the waterfront.

Local elected officials, including City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer have lined up behind the Mayor: “Mayor de Blasio’s forward thinking proposal promises to provide more Queens and Brooklyn residents with a new reliable transit option,” said Jimmy Van Bramer in 2016 press release. The Mayor has also recruited NYCHA tenant leaders, and most recently, the Transit Workers Union to support the plan (read our open letter to the TWC here).

But not everyone is enamored with the Mayor’s shiny new project. Still in its planning phase, the BQX is facing significant opposition from planning and transit experts, as well as grassroots organizations and residents who fear that the BQX will cause more harm than good in communities that are already facing significant displacement pressures. The Gentrification Express documentary captures these concerns through interviews and analysis, highlighting three key reasons New Yorkers shouldn’t be so quick to jump aboard the BQX:

1. The BQX is too damn expensive.

Though privately operated, the BQX would not come free to the city. The Friends of the BQX project that the trolley will cost about $2.5 billion in tax payer dollars to build. This in itself is no small sum, but according to Hunter Professor Samuel Stein, the actual construction price could be even higher. He explains that a common strategy for developers is to low-ball project costs because once construction is underway with tax-payer dollars, no one will oppose putting in the extra dollars to see it through the finish line.

The costs don’t end with construction. The Friends of the BQX claim that the project will pay for itself through a strategy called “value-capture.” This financing strategy relies on the assumption that development will spur property tax increases along the route, and that these increases can be redirected into the operations costs. However, even a leaked city memo to Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen points out that value capture won’t come close to covering the high costs. In other words, tax payers would end up covering most of the operations costs—and it will be expensive, particularly since the BQX route passes through FEMA-designated flood zones. “If a disaster like [Hurricane Sandy] happens again and the BQX flops the city is going to pay for that… and that’s coming out of our tax money,” said Sunset Park resident Antoinette Martinez.

2. The BQX’s primary purpose is to spur luxury real estate development.

MTA-Underserved Neighborhoods.jpg
The MTA has identified 9 neighborhoods most underserved by public transportation and none of them are along the BQX route. Taken from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/intro_to_brt_phase2.pdf

In a recent report, the MTA identified 9 densely populated neighborhoods that are one half mile or further from public transportation. Strangely, the BQX doesn’t run through any of these neighborhoods. According to Sam Stein, that’s because the BQX’s main purpose isn’t to fix transit deserts—it is part of a larger strategy to catalyze luxury real estate development along the waterfront. According to the documentary, there are at least 10 developers with heavy real estate interests along the route. The NY Post has found that BQX-backing developers have contributed significantly to the de Blasio campaign.

“A lot of developers see the Brooklyn Queens waterfront as the gold coast, and it is for them. They come out and say it. The Jamestown Properties owners say, ‘We want another Williamsburg waterfront in Sunset Park… they’re not hiding what they want,” said Jenny Dubnau, a Long Island City-based artist.

bqx-trolley-developers.jpg
Documentary screenshot shows 10 major developers with significant real estate interests along the BQX Route (top to bottom): Durst Organization, Alma Realty, Tishman Speyer, Park Tower Group, Brookfield Properties, Two Trees, Steiner Studios, RAL Development, Toll Brothers and Jamestown Properties.

3. The BQX will lead to displacement of renters and manufacturing businesses.

The greatest concern expressed by advocates in the documentary is the fear that the BQX will push up property taxes, which in turn, will raise rents and displace low income New Yorkers.

“We are really being pushed out of this community… And that’s not fair. Why should we have to move out of the community we was raised in to go to someplace new when we’ve been here all our lives?” said Sylvia White, a NYCHA resident and leader of the Justice for All Coalition which opposes the BQX.

Renters are not the only ones concerned. According to Elizabeth Yeampierre, Executive Director of UPROSE, the BQX also threatens the displacement of manufacturing jobs in communities like Sunset Park that is one of the largest live-work communities in NYC. Once the BQX is built, it will become much more lucrative for developers to choose residential over manufacturing developments.

What is an alternative to the BQX?

There’s one thing that BQX advocates and its opponents agree on: Queens and Brooklyn can benefit from improved transportation options. But according to Sam Stein, you don’t need a streetcar to have a fast moving mode of public transportation. The solution is an improved bus system that extends bus routes, and gives buses priority on streets so that they aren’t gridlocked in car traffic. While not as sexy as a new streetcar, express buses would provide the same commuting benefits, for only a fraction of the price—and no gentrification would be caused.

Watch the full documentary, Gentrification Express, for free here. This documentary is produced by NYC-based filmmakers Samantha Farinella and Amanda Katz.

Take Action:

  • Sign this petition and demand that Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer say no to the luxury trolley that would run through his district
  • Contact your local City Council Member to share your concerns and demand their opposition to the BQX Trolley. View this map to see if your district is along the BQX route.
  • Organize against the BQX. If Queens-based, contact us at queensantigentrification@gmail.com to find out how to get involved. If you are based in Brooklyn, connect with a local organization such as UPROSE (click here to view their transportation justice page).

Learn more:

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

 

Why Fighting Gentrification is Connected to Fighting Trump

Unlike no president before, President Trump is a product of the powerful real estate industry which fueled his rise to power, and it is going to take an equally powerful fight from the people to strike his source of influence.

Trump’s fortune, which includes 1.7 billion in NYC real estate assets, made it possible for him to fuel his brand and business ventures, not to mention pour $66 million into his presidential campaign. And he will continue enriching his family’s real estate business in office. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner remains a beneficiary of Kushner Cos—the family real estate business which has made over $7 billion in acquisitions over the past decade and boasts over 20,000 apartments in its portfolio, with a focus on “up and coming neighborhoods” like Astoria, Queens and Jersey City.

In the book, How to Kill a City Peter Moskowitz explains gentrification as a process of “reorienting the purpose of cities away from being spaces that provide for the poor and middle classes and toward spaces that generate capital for the rich,” and that is exactly what is happening under the Trump administration.

As president, Trump has started this process by appointing the wealthiest cabinet in U.S. history to date, and more recently, by releasing a preliminary budget with draconian funding cuts across the board for essential housing and social service programs.

The White House budget includes over $6 billion in cuts to the federal housing budget—eliminating the HOME program that provides housing for very low-income residents and reducing the already meager budget for public housing, senior housing and housing subsidies for people with disabilities. The budget also proposed over $4 billion in cuts to community service programs from the Department of Health and Human Services, and $2.4 billion from the Department of Transportation.

These cuts will pressure cities to run into the open arms of private corporations and luxury developers—like Trump and Kushner—to meet essential housing and transit needs. This is already playing out in New York City, where for example Council Member Ritchie Torres is calling public private partnership “the salvation of public housing” which faces a $17 billion deficit. On the transportation side, Mayor de Blasio has allied with luxury developers like Two Trees Development to push for a new Brooklyn Queens Connector trolley which would be financed by rising property values along the entire waterfront from Astoria to Sunset Park.

As Trump and our elected officials push forward with these pro-gentrification policies, it will be up to the people to unify and take back our power.

We don’t have to look too far back in history for lessons and inspiration. Against incredible odds, the Montgomery bus boycott- led by poor, working women of color- resulted in a Supreme Court decision against the state of Alabama. It was successful largely for two reasons: (1) thousands of ordinary people mobilized together around a common cause, putting fear into those in power; and (2) by refusing to ride buses which perpetuated a racist system, the people directly hurt the purse strings of the state (at the time, black Americans made up over 75% of the bus ridership).

We can use these same tactics to fight Trump, by uniting as neighbors and citizens against pro-gentrification policies which prioritize the wealthy over the most vulnerable and by taking actions which deliberately attack the source of his influence, the real estate industry.

Join the fight in West Queens by signing a petition to oppose three mega-developments that will benefit luxury real estate developers: the BQX Trolley, Sunnyside Yards, and the Long Island City Core Rezoning, and join over 100 neighbors on April 20th to tell Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer to say no to luxury development perpetuated by the likes of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner. Click here to RSVP and join our movement.