February 11, 2020

Local Community-Based Organizations and Local Residents Denounce Community Board 7 Vote Approving Flushing Rezoning

Flushing, NY — On Monday, February 10, 2020, Community Board 7 held its one and only public hearing on the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process on the redevelopment of the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD), followed by a non-binding vote for recommendation. MinKwon Center and other member organizations of Flushing for Equitable Development & Urban Planning (FED UP) mobilized over 200 community members to the public hearing, and organized a rally and press conference before the start of the hearing.

Local Flushing residents provided live testimony before Community Board 7, expressing deep concerns of a massive development of luxury units that would impact the ongoing displacement of longtime residents and small businesses due to skyrocketing market rates, congestion, pollution, construction hazards, lack of sewage infrastructure, and overcrowded schools. Local residents and FED UP urged Community Board 7 to vote down on the current ULURP process and consider community-based alternatives that address the needs of Flushing residents. After an arduous night of debate, Community Board 7 defied the community and voted 30-8 in favor of Flushing rezoning.

The Flushing for Equitable Development & Urban Planning (FED UP) coalition said in a statement: "The SFWD application has been a disaster, both procedurally and substantively. Procedurally, there has been a lack of procedural transparency and robust public engagement. Substantively, the application is a public nightmare: whether it's the dominance of privately owned streets; the lack of any meaningful number of affordable housing units, the lack of any plan for additional public school, library, youth center, senior center, or other public facility; lack of commitment to hire locally, all union labor at prevailing wages; the lack of a commitment to CSO reduction; a majority of the proposed towers exceeding FFA height restrictions; or the City Planning Department's specious reasoning for its negative declaration on the Environmental Assessment Statement; this plan is a massive giveaway from the public to developers. Council Member Peter Koo, the City Council, and the Mayor must reject this plan."

Seonae Byeon, Lead Housing Organizer at the MinKwon Center, said: "Low income, Limited English Proficiency (LEP) immigrants in Flushing have been under attack by predatory landlords like Zara, A&E, and Pinnacle. Immediately after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the rezoning of Flushing West in 2014, more predatory landlords have bought up rent-stabilized units in Flushing. Flushing residents were displaced by rising rents and predatory tactics that landlords used, including rent increases under Major Capital Improvements (MCIs). These landlords are members of Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY), and they recently sued the state of New York to stop new rent laws from taking effect and get rid of rent-stabilized apartments.

"The so-called 'affordable housing' units that developers hae proposed are not actually affordable to the Flushing community. The price of these units hovers around 80 percent of Area Median Income (AMI), which is $85,360 for a family of four. However, the average income in Flushing is between $11,000 and $36,000, and according to the 2014 ACS data, 17% of Flushing residents are seniors. We demand 1,725 affordable housing units with tiers of affordability based on the AMI of local Flushing zip codes. To accommodate Flushing's large senior population, we demand for at least 431 senior housing units."

Melquaides Gagarin, community organizer, said: "What our communities need is investment in affordable housing for working families, increased and improved public transit, housing and services for our elders, youth centers that nurture our future, union jobs that pay living wages, environmental protection, and most of all, a seat at the table. We don't need more hotels, luxury condos, and parking spaces. We need a sustainable future for working families in Flushing and throughout Queens." 

Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce said in a statement: "The Flushing Chamber is a membership association of business owners, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders representing the most diverse and dynamic community in the United States," stated John Choe, Executive Director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.  "We join 32BJ SEIU and FEDUP coalition in opposing the current proposal for a Special Flushing Waterfront District, which would add massive burdens on our community -- including traffic congestion, combined sewage overflow, and crowded classrooms -- without adequately addressing the many needs of the surrounding residents and local businesses. We're FED UP and won't take no more!"

Guardians of Flushing Bay said in a statement: "Flushing Creek has been cut off from local residents and suffering from sewage pollution for decades. The Special Flushing Waterfront District could improve the waterfront after nearly a century of poor planning. However, the approval process has been muddled by a lack of transparency and the developers' rejection of community-based waterfront design. Guardians of Flushing Bay stands with the FED UP coalition in asking for a more robust environmental review that considers the profound impacts this development will have on our fragile, critical wetlands and the residents who rely on them."

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Flushing for Equitable Development & Urban Planning (FED UP) is a new coalition of community-based organizations and concerned community members formed in January 2020 to oppose the current rezoning efforts of the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD).


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