December 08, 2020

Before the City Council Committee Vote, Community Members and Organizations Deliver Petitions and Open Letter Demanding Councilmember Koo Vote NO on SWFD Rezoning

Flushing, New York - Community members and organization representatives delivered 1,000+ petitions demanding Councilmember Koo vote no to the Special Flushing Waterfront District rezoning to his office today. They also delivered an Open Letter to Councilmember Koo and all City Councilmembers urging them to do the same and not allow more luxury development to drive up already high rents and taxes. The petition and letter delivery comes before the New York City Council Committee on Land Use prepares to vote on the proposal to rezone the Special Flushing Waterfront District on December 9th. 


The delegation was met by a staff member at Councilmember Koo’s office who informed the delegation that he was simply there to pick up the petitions. Members of the delegation asked why the councilmember has not returned our emails, calls nor committed to meeting the community to hear our concerns. We also asked why he would be pushing through a rezoning that is so bad for the community and not fighting for a plan that benefits the majority of those living, working and doing business in Flushing.  


“Unlike Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee, Councilmember Peter Koo hasn't sat down with those who are against the plan. A few days before Acting Queens Borough President voted no to the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD), she joined a walking tour of the proposed site of the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD), led by the MinKwon Center and met with local Flushing residents at St. George’s Church and listened to residents’ testimonies. She heard those who haven’t been able to voice their concerns. We were stripped of this opportunity to hold our councilmember accountable to those who will be most impacted, due to the pandemic. While residents continue to grieve and suffer through the pandemic, City Council should not force this luxury development upon the community. Member deference should not be about the councilmember, it should be about the people and the community in the neighborhood”, said Seonae Byeon, the lead housing organizer with Minkwon Center.  


Conversation with residents and small business owners should have happened before the ULURP process began, and the concerns of our community should be of utmost importance in this development plan since they are most directly impacted by the rezoning plan. There is still a severe lack of transparency and thorough communication with Flushing residents about how this will change our neighborhood. In the meeting with Sharon Lee, residents were able to display the increased pace of gentrification, the shutting down of longtime small businesses, and the astronomical increase in rent. For the same reason, the community has demanded a formal Environmental Impact Statement to address the socioeconomic and environmental impact of the community that will be impacted by the special district Flushing rezoning in relation to the ongoing development, displacement, and gentrification in Flushing. 


“City Councilmembers should not defer to Koo when he has shut the community out. How can a councilmember say that 1,725 luxury condos and another hotel is good for the community when we are already struggling with such high rents and taxes? We want our councilmember Koo to stand up for the people and do something about the overdevelopment of Flushing. We want our councilmember to work with us to create a rezoning plan that benefits the whole community and limits luxury development,” said Sarah Ahn, director of Flushing Workers Center. 


“Councilmember Koo and the developers have been telling the community and the media that the people of Flushing want SFWD. This is not true. Eighty percent of the residents in this area are renters. Have a two minute conversation with any of them. Working people in Flushing are sick and tired of the high rents and high property taxes these luxury developments are causing,” said Audrey Chou, a volunteer with the Flushing Anti-Displacement Alliance. 


"The City Council cannot abuse the tradition of member deference to cover-up a grave injustice: the railroading of another massive luxury development that only benefits the wealthy elite while our residents and business owners suffer from economic collapse, eviction, and hunger during a pandemic," stated John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce. "We urge the City Council to do the right thing: listen to the hundreds of people who have signed our petition and send back this defective proposal for a proper environmental (EIS) review." John Choe, Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce


Members of the delegation urged more people to come together to stop this rezoning that only benefits the developers and to create a rezoning plan that benefits the people of Flushing and puts our needs first. 

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