Queens Borough President Melinda Katz held a public forum at the Queens Borough Building in Kew Gardens yesterday that consisted of support and opposition to a proposal for a building in Jackson Heights.

    Several dozen people showed up to testify for and against a project for Jackson Heights called The Shoppes at 82nd Street. First announced in 2016, the developers behind the idea would place a roughly 140,000 square-foot building fit with housing, a parking garage, and chains store between Roosevelt Avenue and Baxter Avenue. Target plans to open a store there in 2019. (Full disclosure: The author is a former Target employee).

    City Councilmember Francisco Moya .

    A representative for Sun Equity Partners provided an overview of the projects, including changes after Community Board 4 voted down a rezoning of the project last month. Attorney Nora Martins elaborated that a meeting was held with the office City Councilmember Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst, Elmhurst, Corona, and Jackson Heights) and 32BJ SEIU union on what could be done to improve the project.

    Martins announced more affordable housing would be provided at deep affordability. Twenty-four units, out of 120, would have 40 percent of the Area Median Income or about $41,000 per year.

    “We’ve come up with what this community needs,” she said.

    Furthermore, she noted that, even if the project is voted down by the City Council, Target will open its facility starting in 2019.

    While Moya did not appear at the hearing, a representative from his office delivered a letter expressing his support for the proposal after the changes were made. In addition, members of the 32BJ SEIU appeared to show their support of the project. In general, there were more people who testified in favor of the project than against.

    Bishop Taylor, the CEO and founder of Urban Upbound, noted that he spent six hours in Jackson Heights talking to small business owners about the project. While there was some “mixed feelings” about some parts of the project, there was general support for the idea. He later shared various letters of support from pastors in the area.

    Yet residents expressed their displeasure with the proposal. For example, various members of Queens Neighborhoods United, a grassroots organization in neighborhoods such as Jackson Heights, submitted letters to the Queens Borough President’s office from hundreds of constituents opposed to the project.

    One member, Jay Koo, a Woodside native, explained how projects such as the one in front of the Queens Borough President to review could cause displacement for people like him.

    Woodside resident Jay Koo is against the project. Photo by Brandon Jordan,

    “I live in the Lower East Side because I was displaced,” he said.

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic candidate challenging U.S. Rep. and Chair of both the House Democratic Caucus and the Queens Democratic Party Joe Crowley (D-Sunnyside, Astoria, College Point, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, Woodside, The Bronx), appeared to denounce “another unaffordable unit.”

    “This development does not allow small businesses to exist or take a place. Not only are we displacing people, but also displacing businesses,” she said.

    Katz will announce her recommendations concerning the project in the following weeks. The project then moves to the city’s planning commission and then to the full city council for a final vote as per the Unified Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP)

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