Anti-gentrification group protests committee hearing for Target proposal in Elmhurst

A CB4 committee meeting was crashed by protestors who oppose the construction of a proposed Target Express building with housing.
Photo by Mark Hallum
By Mark Hallum

Developers seeking a variance from Community Board 4’s zoning committee saw opposition from activists who claim the Target slated for Elmhurst will only further drive gentrification in the neighborhood.

Sun Equity Partners presented plans on Tuesday for the structure, which will have commercial space at the ground level, but will need a variance to expand its plans for housing in the high-rise building at 40-31 82nd Street.

Activists from anti-gentrification group Queens Neighborhoods United expressed frustration that although the developer claims the residential units are going to qualify as affordable housing, most members of the community would not be able to make rent.

“[If] the developer’s still able to build 10 flights, it’s still going to be destructive to the community. And if the rezoning does come through and they do get a 420 tax abatement, they’re still going to flood the area with market rate housing first before they actually get the rent control, which would be rent-controlled for people who can afford the market rate prices,” said Jorge Cabanillas, explaining how his parents, who migrated to the area 30 years ago, have already left Elmhurst for less pricey College Point. “I was able to move back into a room to the community I grew up in and we’re all being slowly pushed out, especially the people of color in the area.”

Attorney Nora Martins, who represented Sun Equity, said under the current zoning the company would only be allowed to build up to 10 stories. But with the goal in mind for 90 rental units, attorneys for the developer were requesting permission for a total of 13 floors.

About half the units, which have yet to be laid out in designs, would be studios rented at $1,375 per month, while two- and three-bedroom units would be suitable for families with an annual income of about $61,000.

The area median income of Elmhurst is at $44,000 per year, according to the attorneys.

“We’re compliant with mandatory inclusionary housing,” Martins said.

Not only are longtime residents feeling the push, Cabanillas remembers the theater that used to occupy the now vacant lot to be developed.

“It used to be a historic movie theater which unfortunately wasn’t protected… so they were able to demolish it, but it was one of the few movie theaters in the area that offered subtitles. You could go to that theater with your parents who don’t speak English and enjoy a movie,” Cabanillas said.

Sun Equity’s attorneys said although they had conducted a study for a hotel in this location, they have no intention of building one since they have already signed a deal with Target.

The lot for the proposed development is located about a block from 82nd Street station of the No. 7 train, wedged into the corner of 82nd and Baxter Avenue.

Thezoning committee reviewed the plans and will pass its recommendation on to CB4 whether or not to approve the plans at the March 13 meeting.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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