You are reading

Queens Community Groups Hold Rally Demanding a Stop to ‘Racist Luxury Rezonings’

Seonae Byeon, Lead Housing Organizer at the MinKwon Center, addresses residents from across NYC in front of City Hall Wednesday as part of a new citywide campaign against luxury rezoning. (Seonae Byeon/MinKwon Center)

Dec. 17, 2020 By Allie Griffin

A coalition of community-based groups from across the city held a rally at City Hall Wednesday demanding that the de Blasio administration block all rezonings that would bring luxury apartment buildings.

The organizations called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to end all future rezonings that permit luxury rental and condo buildings. The groups call these rezonings “racist and exclusionary,” saying that they lead to rent increases that price out existing residents– many of whom are immigrants or minorities.

The rally was spearheaded by MinKwon Center of Community Action, a Flushing-based group opposed to the controversial Flushing rezoning project that was approved by the City Council last week. The rally also included groups from Sunnyside and Astoria.

At the rally Wednesday, coalition leaders unveiled a list of demands related to rezonings in a document titled “Community Declaration on the Future of New York.” The document has been signed by more than 60 community groups.

The declaration demands elected officials to stop all future rezonings that would bring high-end housing; reinvent the land-use process so it is led by the community as opposed to developers; and end the use of virtual meetings as a substitute for public hearings.

The groups also said the city must end the practice of allowing luxury developers to construct larger buildings, or upzone, in exchange for so-called  ‘affordable’ housing.” They also said that lawmakers must stop developers from converting manufacturing space into “gentrified housing.”

Seonae Byeon, lead housing organizer at the MinKwon Center, said the declaration was prompted by the city’s decision to approve the 13-tower Flushing rezoning project.

The city council’s approval last week paves the way for developers to create a Special Flushing Waterfront District with 1,725 apartments, 879 hotel rooms, office and retail space, as well as a brand new road network and a publicly accessible waterfront promenade.

“The Flushing community has been bearing the burden of this environmental racism and is suffering from displacement due to this predatory development,” Byeon said. “Enough is enough.”

She said that MinKwon’s opposition to the Flushing rezoning is similar to the opposition of residents across the city to incoming developments in their respective neighborhoods.

“These luxury developments throughout the city have been nothing but a giveaway to the developers. Developers are granted special permits, tax benefits, and deregulation at the expense of the community…,” Byeon said.

Two other Queens groups joined MinKwon Center at the rally Wednesday to oppose rezoning applications within their own neighborhoods.

Emily Sharpe of Stop Sunnyside Yards spoke against a rezoning application put forward by Phipps Houses, a developer that seeks to construct a seven-story, 167-unit building at 50-25 Barnett Ave. in Sunnyside. All the units in the complex would be income-restricted.

“The Sunnyside community is fighting against a spot rezoning that will reward one of NYC’s worst landlords for evicting tenants — Adam Weinstein of Phipps Houses Group,” Sharpe said.

“The 100% ‘affordable’ units provided will not go to anyone earning under $48,000 even though they claim 25 units will go to formerly homeless people,” Sharpe, a candidate for city council, said.

The Phipps Houses application, however, was approved by Queens Community Board 2 on Dec. 3 by a vote of 28 to 12. The project is currently being reviewed by Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

Yadira Dumet of the Astoria Tenants Union denounced another Queens rezoning proposal, Innovation QNS — a project that calls for the rezoning of five city blocks on the border of Long Island City and Astoria.

The plan–which is being put together by Larry Silverstein, Kaufman Astoria Studios, and BedRock Real Estate–calls for more than a dozen buildings that would include 2,700 apartments, a school, as well as retail and office space.

“Innovation QNS…will flood one of the few remaining pockets of truly affordable housing in Astoria,” Dumet said. “They will receive enormous tax breaks, make huge profits, and displace the working class and lower income residents who actually built the community.”

The developers, however, argue that the project would bring many benefits to the community. They say that 700 of the 2,700 units would be “affordable” to people who earn up to 60 percent of the median income level.

Additionally, they say it would create 5,400 jobs–consisting of 3,700 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs–and would lead to the creation of 2 1/4 acres of public open space.

The project has yet to undergo the public review process, which is required for a rezoning.

email the author: [email protected]

4 Comments

Click for Comments 
Mitch

“Environmental racism”??? Give me a break!
Let’s talk about all the Korean signage in Flushing and all the way to Bayside with little or no English. It works both ways! Did you ever complain about that, Miss Byeon? Because, in a way that is “environmental racism” too!
If you want to fight over-development, fine… do it! But don’t bring racism into it.

Reply
Miguel

Luxury apartments are now racist? Gimme a break. This communist takeover needs to stop. The only way to make everyone equal is by making everyone equally poor. Ask the Russians, Chinese, Cubans, Venezuelans etc. as they all lived through this. Do you know why they immigrated to the USA?

Reply
John Lim

Is anyone surprised of the opposition? What is baffling is the use of “Racist” in the complaint. What race do you think is going to move in? What race lives in the surrounding area? May as well call the complaint Human-biased.

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Queens Public Library celebrates Black History Month with nearly 150 programs highlighting Black resistance, culture

Feb. 2, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

Throughout February, Queens Public Library will celebrate “Black Resistance” – the theme of its 2023 Black History Month observance – with nearly 150 comprehensive programs and initiatives, including theater performances, author talks, and art workshops for all ages, spotlighting various aspects of Black heritage, culture and resilience. 

Popular places where you can watch the Big Game in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘Limitless possibility’: BP Richards announces community visioning workshops on redevelopment of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and Empire State Development on Tuesday, Jan. 31, announced the launch of a series of community visioning workshops that will be held to hear input from eastern Queens residents about the redevelopment of the 50-acre Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village. 

The first community visioning workshop will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at P.S./I.S. 208 located at 74-30 Commonwealth Blvd. in Glen Oaks.

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.