The city’s Department of City Planning will make its first community engagement towards rezoning Court Square and Queens Plaza to address needs for affordable housing when it hosts a public meeting at CUNY Law School Tuesday night.
DCP will introduce its “LIC Core Neighborhood Plan” and discuss the study which aims to examine key land use and zoning issues in the neighborhoods. The meeting at 2 Court Square beginning at 6 p.m. will be the first of a wide range of events and activities for the community in a long planning process.
“We really want to see Long Island City move forward pretty quickly and I think you will see this in the near term, and by the way, in Long Island City we want to see residential development but also commercial development that protects one of the city’s strongest manufacturing areas as well,” City Planning Chairman Carl Weisbrod said earlier this month. “It’s a complex area but an exciting area for us to be working.”
Long Island City is one of seven neighborhoods the de Blasio administration targeted for rezoning as part of its Housing New York Plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. While rezoning efforts have been a struggle in other neighborhoods, and Flushing West was postponed at the request of City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), developers have been building a new skyline in Long Island, where green construction walls can be seen on nearly every street, the mark of more projects soon to begin.
“Developers are anxious to see rezonings particularly in Long Island City because there is real opportunity,” Weisbrod said. “It’s a great market there. It’s a market that for the most part doesn’t really involve the issues of people who are living there now being threatened.”
Jackson Heights resident Jenny Dubnau thinks Weisbrod is in for a surprise. A visual artist who rents space in Long Island City, overdevelopment has caused enormous escalation in Dabnau’s rent over the last few years as well as many of her LIC neighbors, causing her to organize with the intensifying anti-gentrification movement in western Queens.
“They will get more push back than they’re expecting,” she said. “There has been growing opposition in Washington Heights, Inwood and East New York, but don’t forget we stopped the Barnett project in Sunnyside. There are already too many luxury units in Long Island City that have pushed up everybody’s rents. What we need is real affordability/ Otherwise rezoning will only end up displacing people and small businesses.”
Dubnau’s is not the lone voice. Dr. Diane Brown organized the Justice for All Coalition two years ago drawing mainly from the Queensbridge, Astoria, Ravenswood and Woodside Houses.
“And everyone in between. We’re trying to get the community to the public meeting on the 31st to let them hear our voice,” Brown said. “They did rezoning here in 2001 and all we got were these big shiny towers and a bunch of hotels, nothing affordable for the people that need it. Well, we’re going to make some noise for real affordable housing for the people in the community.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr