Gentrification pressures creep into Jackson Heights, with no alarum bell rung by local officials

A photo illustration of the proposed development to be built on  71-17 Roosevelt Avenue  in Jackson Heights. Source : Roosevelt 5 LLC/Fair Use

A photo illustration of the proposed development to be built on 71-17 Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights. Source : Roosevelt 5 LLC/Fair Use

Editor's Note

There will be a town Hall for Spanish-speakers to discuss issues of gentrification in Jackson Heights on Saturday, 29 July. RSVP on Facebook.


New, large-scale development projects continue to be planned or started in Jackson Heights, but officials with authority or discretion over the projects are keeping mum about these projects. The office of New York City Councilmember Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) did not answer requests for comments for this report. Queens Community Board 3, which covers Jackson Heights, did not answer requests for an interview for this report. The Councilmember of a district and the corresponding Community Board have immediate discretion to support or oppose major changes in zoning or land use.

New construction displaces existing tenants from buildings that are being cleared. Once new apartment buildings are constructed, the new buildings attract wealthier tenants, who can afford to spend more on rent. This influx of wealthier tenants helps to increase rent pressure on surrounding apartment buildings, leading to a secondary displacement of tenants, according to tenant activists. Concern about increasing rent pressures in East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights have been heightened since it was revealed that there has been a 200 per cent. increase in families earning over $150,000 in these two neighborhoods, according to a January 2017 report published by DNAinfo New York.

Across Queens, communities are fighting over-development that appears to proceed withoutcommunity approval. As reported by Progress Queens, activist from the community group, Queens Anti-Gentrification Project, have protested the pro-development policies being supported by Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).

Following are some projects being planned or started in Jackson Heights, which may change the character and make-up of the community :

Citi Bike. Individuals associated with Transportation Alternatives were recently seen collecting petition signatures on Diversity Plaza to support the introduction of the Citi Bike service in Jackson Heights. The Citi Bike service has been described as "an early sign of gentrification and displacement," according to a report published by Gothamist. Citi Bike has also been blamed for driving small businesses to closure, including the HUB Bicycles shop in the West Village. Transportation Alternatives is a key member of the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, a group using Big Business funding to promote the Brooklyn Queens Connector, or BQX, a street car service that Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) has proposed to connect the gentrifying neighborhoods alongst the Brooklyn and Queens waterfronts.

71-17 Roosevelt Avenue. An early report about this site noted that a 15-story building was being planned. A search of online records of the New York City Department of Buildings showed that workers on this site were drilling into the ground in March 2017 and hit a gas pipe. A stop work order was issued, but it was eventually rescinded, according to online Municipal records.

74-04 Northern Boulevard. A car wash has been rezoned into an 8-story building on the corner of 74th Street and Northern Blvd., according to a report published by The Queens Chronicle. The rezonging means that the western edges of Jackson Heights will now be anchored by buildings taller than the six-story cap that apartment buildings in the area have historically respected. The rezoning was supported by Queens Community Board 3 and Borough President Melinda Katz (D-Queens), according to the report in The Queens Chronicle.

37-23 72nd Street. As previously noted on the Queens Crap blog, an 11-story, 50-unit hotel was being planned for Jackson Heights one block over from the 15-story building. When Progress Queens reported about the issue in 2015, Councilmember Dromm and Queens Community Board 3 never answered press inquiries about the concerns in the neighborhood about gentrification pressures. Thus far, no work has been begun on the site.

40-19 Gleane Street. The building where the popular latin jazz club Terraza 7 is located has been sold, and a 7-story building has been planned for the area near Roosevelt Ave. and 84th Street, according to a report published by The New York Times. Terraza 7 has been a community organising site of social justice reform campaigns, including for economic justice. It has been observed by some activists in other boroughs that when gentrification strikes in some communities, developers will seek to convert or neutralise key community institutions or activists, like when St. Vincent's Hospital was closed and converted into luxury condominiums in the West Village or when community activist Daniel Goldstein agreed in 2010 to stop blocking the Atlantic Yards development in Brooklyn in exchange for receiving $3 million.

Roosevelt Avenue BID. Big Business interests have been pushing a business improvement district alongst Roosevelt Ave. Since at least 2014, a neighborhood group, Queens Neighborhoods United, has opposed efforts to gentrify the mix of businesses on Roosevelt Ave. In January 2017, the journalist Katie Honan filed a report for DNAinfo New York, revealing that plans for the Roosevelt Avenue business improvement district were quietly ended as a result of a lack of support.

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