April 24, 2016 By Christian Murray
The quarter-page ad in Friday’s issue of the Woodside Herald is direct:
“Together we Stay, Stop the Phipps Development!”
The ad was placed by a new group called the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project that was formed eight months ago by a handful of Sunnyside, Woodside and Jackson Heights residents.
The group is opposed to the construction of a 10-story, 220-unit residential building proposed by Phipps Houses to go up at 50-22 Barnett Avenue (see details below). Its members will be holding a public meeting at the Sunnyside Community Services Center on Thursday to discuss ways in which to block the development.
Phipps needs to get the property rezoned in order to move ahead with the project. The company said that 100 percent of the units will be designated as “affordable.”
Dan Raymond, a co-founder of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, said the group is comprised of about six core members who believe that the gentrification wave is beginning to seep into Woodside, Jackson Heights and farther east.
He said his aim is to put the brakes on further gentrification in Sunnyside and the rest of Queens claiming that it is leading to higher rents, overcrowding and the loss of family-owned businesses.
He said that his group wants to make sure what has happened to residents in some parts of Brooklyn and Long Island City will not play out here.
“The hardworking people who made these [Brooklyn] neighborhoods… are now being forced out because of higher rents,” Raymond said. “The small immigrant businesses are disappearing and the big stores are moving in. We all see it.”
The group’s attention is currently focused on the Phipps development for now and organizers expect about 40 attendees at Thursday’s meeting.
Raymond said that they thought the 10-story Barnett Avenue project was taken off the table after Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer held a public meeting with Adam Weinstein, CEO of the Phipps, last October and the audience was mostly opposed to it.
Phipps, however, announced on March 28 that it planned to go ahead with the developed and filed a formal application for a zoning change with the Department of City Planning.
“We decided it needed to be stopped,” Raymond said.
He claims that the project will lead to further gentrification despite the units being “affordable”.
The term “affordable” is a tool used by the administration to confuse people, he said, so they think development is good for their community.
The rents being charged for “affordable” units are still pricey and people are growing wise to the fact, he claimed. He used Long Island City as an example.
In Long Island City, the rent for 80 percent of the 925 affordable apartments in the Hunters Point South development were relatively high. Studios ranged in price from $1,561-$1,997; 1 bedrooms $1,965 to $2500; and 2 bedroom $2,360 to 3,300.
“People are starting to work it out that they are being tricked by developers and politicians [when they use the word affordable],” he said
He claims that with further development– whether it be “affordable” or market-rate projects– rents move higher, leading to long-time residents being forced out.
He said his group is discussing ways in which to combat gentrification by calling on the city council to implement a rezoning freeze or a rent freeze. “These are ideas we are thinking about.”
Thursday, April 28 (7:00-9:00pm)
Location: Sunnyside Community Services (43-31 39th Street)