Reject the rezoning at 40-31 82nd Street (ULURP #C180098 ZMQ)
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In 2014, Heskel Group and Sun Equity Partners bought the site of the former theater on 82nd Street for $27 million. Since announcing their plans to build a 2-3 story mall at the site, called “The Shoppes,” last summer, the developers have changed their plans and are trying to gain approval from the city to rezone the site to allow for a 13-story mixed-use building.
The proposed spot rezoning at 40-31 82nd Street is unfair and greedy. It is not for us and could trigger a disastrous flow of more rezonings affecting all surrounding neighborhoods in Queens. These are some of our concerns:
- Housing is not for our community. Developers are seeking to rezone the site to allow for greater height (from R6 to R7X), which would allow them to build nearly twice as many market-rate units, reaping enormous profits. The handful of “permanently affordable” units in the complex required to be built under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing policy would hardly be affordable to existing residents. Developers are proposing to price the so-called “affordable units” at 80% of area median income—that is $68,700 for a family of three—yet median income for a family of three in CB4 is only $44,865. This sets an alarming precedent for future developers with their eyes on Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.
- Threat to small businesses. The proposed ground floor commercial space would be anchored by a Target. Already, Target has announced plans to sell products that directly compete with existing small businesses (such as pre-made food, baby supplies, and sporting goods) and has written bans into its lease, prohibiting other small businesses from sharing space with them. There are already two Targets a short train ride away. A new business-killing Target is not needed in Elmhurst!
- Overburdened transit system. By the developers’ own approximations, the mall would add roughly 1,500 extra pedestrian trips to the area daily. This will not only add further strain to our overburdened transit system for businesses and residents working and living in the neighborhood but could potentially be life threatening for all who depend on quick access to Elmhurst Hospital, one of the only Level One trauma centers in the city, which is only one block away from the proposed site. The developer neglected to address this concern in the Environmental Assessment Statement, which found that the project would have no potentially significant adverse transportation impacts.
- Unsound as-of-right proposal. The proposed spot rezoning is deplorable, but the developer’s proposed as-of-right options have been no better. The developer has previously recommended possibly building a hotel or a 100% market-rate residential structure, and in both scenarios, maintaining Target as the anchor retailer. The developer has failed to present scenarios that would be in context with the neighborhood and allowable under existing zoning policies, such as a low-rise site layout, or a taller building that is 47% community space. As Hunter College PhD candidate Sam Stein wrote in a March 23 City Limits op-ed, the developer’s pitch is essentially a ransom note: “Give us what we want... or we’ll do something you want even less. At best, it manipulated the power dynamic between property owners and the communities impacted by their profit-making.”
For these reasons, Queens Neighborhoods United and the below signatories of this petition as well as Community Board 4 are calling upon you to take an unequivocal stand against the proposed spot rezoning at 40-31 82nd Street in Elmhurst.
We urge you instead to push for an alternate zoning that protects our small businesses, the character of our neighborhood, and creates truly affordable and accessible housing and community space. In doing so, your office will exemplify leadership in action as we collectively fight for the preservation of residents, small businesses and diverse immigrant community who are at the heart of our Queens
- Over 200 residents and 13 small businesses, who have filled out paper petitions. These developers did not consult the community and so we went out on the street and hosted workshops to engage those who would be affected by this rezoning. This includes community art-making and visioning two weekends in a row in front of the proposed development, in partnership with Hate Free Zone, as well as a workshop and envisioning session with Chhaya CDC and ANHD (Association for Neighborhood Housing and Development). We spoke to the people and the people do not want this rezoning.
- Authors of "Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning" in New York City, written by Tom Angotti, Sylvia Morse, Philip DePaolo, Peter Marcuse, and Samuel Stein;
- Justice for All Coalition, a community-based group operating in Long Island City and Astoria, with a strong base among public housing residents from the Queensboro, Ravenswood and Astoria Houses;
- Long Island City Coalition, a grassroots organization of over 120 members and local community leaders with ties to civic association groups in Queens;
- People’s Cultural Plan, a coalition with over 100 working artists and community advocates from across the city;
- Social Practice Queens, collaborative between Queens College and Queens Museum;
- The Queens branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest and fastest-growing political organization in the U.S. with strong presence of community members and leaders;
- The Queens Chapter of the People Power’s Assembly which organizes and empowers workers and oppressed people across the U.S.; and
- The Queensboro Houses Association, established in 1989 is a group of 85 pre-war original cooperative buildings located in the Jackson Heights Historic District. While their main focus is on cooperative issues, they are very actively involved with quality of life concerns in the community.
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