BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
With the prospect looming of western Queens’ inundation by high-profile development projects—such as the BQX Trolley, Sunnyside Yards and Long Island City Core Rezoning—residents took to the streets last week to demand that Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) oppose the projects, which protesters said would displace families residing in local neighborhoods.
On Thursday, members of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, Queens Is Not for Sale and Anakbayan NY as well as approximately 50 western Queens residents and several local nonprofit organizations gathered at Bliss Plaza on 46th Street in Sunnyside to voice their concerns regarding gentrification. Afterward, they took part in a march to Van Bramer’s district office.
“In New York, we see giant real estate companies driving city policy, while the people are disregarded by sell-out politicians like Bill de Blasio, who tells us lies about their appreciation for diversity and inclusion and their new-found love for immigrants in the age of Trump,” said Dee Raymond, a Sunnyside resident and the protest organizer.
Grace Chung, a Sunnyside resident and member of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, said that a community should not be centered around large-scale developments and profits, but rather on the people who live there.
Chung said she believes that Long Island City’s rezoning would result in new luxury office development as well as more density, higher rents and the displacement of working-class families and small businesses. The concern regarding the BQX project—which would span the western Queens waterfront from Astoria to Sunset Park—is that it could endanger some of the last remaining manufacturing zones of Queens and Brooklyn as well as drive up property taxes for the residents living along the route.
And Chung said that the Sunnyside Yards megaproject—which is expected to add as many as 24,000 housing units—would only set aside a small percentage of units for affordable housing.
“All three proposals are supported by the current administration, by the mayor and big real estate,” said Chung. “These are powerful forces in New York City, but they are not as powerful as us—neighbors, families, small businesses, factory workers and working people of color who care deeply about our community.”
Sal Albanese, whose mayoral candidacy is focusing on preserving neighborhoods and creating affordable housing, dropped by the protest.
“What’s happening in Sunnyside, which is still an affordable neighborhood, is symptomatic of the out-of-control issue of the city making neighborhoods unaffordable,” Albanese told the Queens Tribune.
Following speeches by members of the protest’s grassroots organizers, participants formed a line, marched to Van Bramer’s office and chanted, “Say ‘no,’ JVB!”
Although Van Bramer was unable to address the march due to a family emergency, he offered to meet with the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project and wrote a letter supporting the community’s decision to fight for its beliefs.
“Making sure our neighborhoods remain affordable for all kinds of families is important to me,” the letter read. “Further gentrification is a real threat. I share many of your concerns and I have been publicly critical of plans the city has put forth that would do more harm than good. The truth is none of these proposals are even close to being enacted. Our community board has yet to even consider them.”