Sept. 8, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
Anti-gentrification forces are gathering in Sunnyside.
Nearly a dozen New York City-based organizations working to stave off gentrification will gather to discuss problems and possible solutions at a panel at 1 p.m. on September 18 at the Queen of Angels Parish Hall in Sunnyside.
The panel, called “Jobs, Homes & Hood,” will focus on the issues surrounding displacement and gentrification, and will push to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act that its advocates say would help local businesses renegotiate fairer leases.
Representatives from organizations including the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, TakeBackNYC, the Artist Studio Affordability Project, and many others will discuss how they see gentrification impacting current residents of Western Queens.
“They keep building stuff instead of planning,” said event organizer Patricia Dorfman, who also is the Executive Director of the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. “It seems as though the city is concentrating more on pleasing the big landlords and bringing in more people and buildings in areas that don’t have the infrastructure, the sewers, the transportation, the parks, the schools to handle it,” she said.
Dorfman explained that in her opinion, the biggest thing to help keep local businesses alive would be to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act, which has been bounced around the City Council in some format since the 1980s, though it picked up some steam last fall when several local politicians endorsed it.
The act would ensure longer and more secure leases for small businesses, and give the business owners some negotiating tools, but has not seen much progress in City Council. “We want small businesses to flourish, not be replaced by large corporate developments,” Dorfman said.
Author of the SBJSA Steve Null will be one of the speakers on the panel, and will speak to how it could help protect citizens and business owners from being pushed out of an
Dorfman cited the controversial Phipps Housing development on Barnett Avenue as emblematic of problematic gentrification. “When they proposed this building it was hideous, too big, there was no infrastructure to support the nearly 1,000 people it would bring in, and how are they going to get to work?” she posed, citing the major 7 train track and signal issues. “It was called affordable housing, but most out of reach for almost everybody.”
If the Phipps development moves forward, Dorfman said she believes it would change the entire culture of the neighborhood and open the door for more luxury developments in the area.
“It’s all for the big developers, and as far as I can see there’s nothing in it that’s good for Queens,” Dorfman said.
Dorfman hopes the meeting will be both informative and will incite action. She aims to bring together many of the different groups that want to fight off big projects like Phipps at this meeting she said. She explained that everyone from old-timers who have lived in the neighborhood for their entire lives, to small up and coming business owners, to union laborers who would not be hired to build the new luxury buildings have spoken out against gentrification, and she hopes to unify them at the meeting.
The full meeting schedule is:
- Displacement and Gentrification—Michael Forest and Manny Gomez
- Pass Small Business Jobs Survival Act to Sustain NYC Neighborhoods—Kirsten Theodos
- Keeping Queens Affordable: Tenant Organizers and Small Business advocates
- Why a $2.5 Billion BQX Streetcar?—Sam Stein
- Jackson Heights-Corona: Queens Neighborhood United vs. BID Expansion—Tania Mattos
- Infrastructure Blues—Mitch Waxman
- Q&A—Steve Null