Flushing for Equitable Development & Urban Planning (FED UP) Coalition Members and Allies Call on Queens Borough President to Oppose Flushing Rezoning
Kew Gardens, NY -- On Thursday, February 20, 2020, members of the Flushing for Equitable Development & Urban Planning (FED UP) Coalition appeared at the Land Use Public Hearing at Queens Borough Hall to call on Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee to formally oppose the Special Flushing Waterfront District (SFWD). Following the Community Board 7 public hearing on February 10, the public hearing chaired by the Borough President was the next phase of the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) process, and an advisory vote from the Borough President is expected within 30 days from the CB7 vote that occurred on February 10.
Prior to the public hearing, members and allies of the FED UP coalition congregated on the steps of Queens Borough Hall for a press conference to denounce the absence of transparency, community accountability, and democratic decision-making in the rezoning process, and to call on Borough President Lee to side with the Flushing community over the interests of the developers. Speakers included State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-AD 40), City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-CD 22), Seonae Byeon and Tina Han from the MinKwon Center for Community Action, John Choe from the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, Cody Herrmann from the Guardians of Flushing Bay, community organizer Mel Gagarin, and Donal Cogdell from Hope Astoria Church.
Despite the midday scheduling of the public hearing, members of the FED UP coalition, were able to turn out in greater numbers than the developers and their supporters to testify against the SFWD. Throughout the nearly five hour hearing, local Flushing residents passionately spoke about the need for an EIS (Environmental Impact Statement), the consequences of irreversible gentrification and housing displacement of tenants, concerns about accessibility to the waterfront and the street network, and a multitude of other economic, social, environmental, and racial ramifications the SFWD would have on working-class, immigrant, Limited English Proficiency, low income, and elderly Flushing residents. The FED UP Coalition remains unequivocally committed to opposing the further advancement of the SFWD proposal until the grievances of the Flushing community are addressed.
John Park, Executive Director of the MinKwon Center, said: “When MinKwon led the Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance in 2015-2016 and surveyed over 300 local residents, including small business owners and faith congregations, the top concern at 74 percent was the rising costs of housing. In addition, 24 percent were concerned about the economic displacement of their neighbors. Since then, housing costs in Flushing has continued to skyrocket, the median household income has continued to drop, and a far greater percentage of people have fallen into the category of severely rent-burdened.
“When Cuomo designated the Flushing Waterfront as a Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA) to incentivize redevelopment of underutilized areas to benefit local communities, it was to ‘build a shared community vision and consensus on the reuse and redevelopment of strategic sites and actions to achieve community revitalization.’ The proposed number of luxury units in the development is half of the total number of units built in Flushing in the past decade. The current plan is a shared vision and consensus, but among the large speculative developers. What’s been left out, is the community. The 1,725 planned luxury units and hotel is clearly not for local Flushing residents, and the improved Flushing waterfront does very little for the families who moved elsewhere after being economically displaced.”
Seonae Byeon, Lead Housing Organizer at the MinKwon Center, said: “I am a long-time Flushing resident. I became a tenant organizer because I have been witnessing an ever-increasing rate of displacement. Because of the language barrier, low-income, Limited English Proficiency immigrants in Flushing has been at greater risk of gentrification, displacement, and homelessness. In fact, more than 70% of families are rent burdened in Flushing spending more than 50% of their income on rent.
“Predatory landlords and developers have been stripping the neighborhood of affordable housing and public amenities. About 10 years ago, F&T took Municipal Parking Lot #1, which was public land, for a severely discounted price and many tax benefits. As part of a giveaway they also got special permits to modify height and setback regulations. They promised us affordable housing units and a space for a new YMCA, but none of this ever happened. These developers consistently fail to follow through on their promises to provide Flushing with affordable housing units and community facilities, and they also have a history of not hiring union jobs with prevailing wages.”
William Spisak, Director of Housing Justice at Chhaya CDC, said: "Flushing has become the target of massive real estate speculation over the last decade with over 3,000 new luxury condos choking downtown Flushing while community members are rent-burdened, living in overcrowded conditions, and facing the constant pressure of displacement. This new project will continue the gentrification of Flushing and exacerbate the problems facing the immigrant and working families of Flushing. Chhaya CDC calls on our city officials to stop this project and directly engage the community to understand our concerns and priorities
Guardians of Flushing Bay said in a statement: “Flushing Creek has been cut off from residents and has suffered 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 watershed and the residents who rely on it.”
Red Canary Song said in a statement: “The increasing unaffordability of Flushing has not only made living and working conditions more difficult, forcing migrant workers to take on more risky jobs to survive — the high price of rent is also forcing many massage workers and sex workers to leave New York to seek work in other states where living is more affordable, but there is less access to community safety networks. This mass movement of massage workers out of Flushing is contributing to what the media calls human trafficking, but the invisible hand of the trafficker is that of gentrification.”
Our Progressive Future said in a statement: "As a community of young people organizing across New York City, we are finding that fewer and fewer of us are able to afford rents in the neighborhoods where we grew up, and Flushing is no exception. This rezoning plan would only worsen the gentrification that is tearing apart our communities, and we must take a strong stance in opposition to our neighbors being displaced. Flushing must remain affordable and accessible for young people who have spent their whole lives in the community, but now are struggling to afford the rapidly increasing rents."
Melquaides Gagarin, community organizer, said: "The FED UP Coalition is representing a community that's asking to be heard. For too long our city and elected officials have rolled out the red carpet for developers to exploit and displace our neighbors. For years we have been asking for schools, libraries, senior centers, for secure places to live, and instead we get a pittance of unaffordable 'affordable housing'. This development is an insult and a detriment to longtime residents and the working-class families of Flushing. I will continue to stand in solidarity with the excellent advocacy groups leading the charge, and to fight for the future this community is asking for."
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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