April 7, By Hannah Wulkan
Tensions about gentrification in Western Queens ran high at the Community Board 2 meeting last night.
Several members of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project shared concerns that impending large developments in the area including the Brooklyn Queens Connector, the Sunnyside Yards development and the Long Island City core rezoning would change the character of the neighborhood and drive the middle class out of the area.
“We understand that these developments would forever change the landscape of Queens,” said QAGP organizer Michael Forest. “They are harmful to the city, they only profit developers and we understand that they’ll hurt not only the city but the environment also.”
The group shared their concerns with the Community Board in anticipation of their protest against gentrification on April 20. The group expects over 100 people to march from Bliss Plaza to Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s office at 6 p.m. to demand that he fully oppose all three developments.
“We’re seeing the borough change, rents are skyrocketing, I’m personally worried about my neighbors and friends being priced out and being priced out myself,” said another QAGP member Dan Raymond, adding that the developments are “out of character with the neighborhood.”
“Our main concern, which we especially want to stress, is not just out of character buildings but out of character rent prices and the introduction of out of character products, such as expensive food, the disappearance of vital services and products that basically keep us all alive here,” He added. “The people who make up the massive base of the neighborhood are under threat of being priced out.”
Several other speakers raised concerns about local politicians accepting donations from developers in the area, specifically citing Van Bramer and Senator Michael Gianaris.
In addition to organizing the protest, the group began a petition that has garnered 88 signatures in the last month requesting that Van Bramer oppose the developments and support a citywide rent freeze, an end to upzoning, and full funding for NYCHA.
“Long ago, I publicly announced my support for a rent freeze in the City of New York. And I have always unequivocally opposed the privatization of NYCHA. The residents of NYCHA I represent know that,” Van Bramer responded in a statement last month.
“The BQX, development of Sunnyside Yards and the proposed rezoning of Long Island City are all ideas being pushed by Mayor de Blasio and his administration. I have publicly expressed great concern and skepticism about all of the Mayor’s proposals. And I have publicly opposed previous plans of the Mayor when it was wrong for our neighborhood. I fight every day for the people I represent, and I’ll never support anything that hurts our community. My neighbors and constituents know that,” Van Bramer added.