Hundreds of concerned Flushing residents, activists and business owners rallied on the steps of Queens Public Library at Main Street on Tuesday against a proposed transitional housing project that is set to move forward in the next phase of development.
The group marched from the public library to the project site located at 39-03 College Point Blvd., demanding transparency and open dialogue from Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), which is spearheading the development, called Magnolia Gardens.
According to Flushing United, there has been a lack of public engagement and transparency regarding the project. The group has gathered more than 60,000 petition signatures, as well as more than 60 community partners questioning the need for transitional housing, instead of building permanently affordable housing.
“We don’t understand why AAFE has to lie and try to steamroll the community. We’re ready and willing to have an open and real public dialogue with AAFE about this project, which is still on hold, despite claims to the contrary,” said Flushing United Acting President Jerry Lo. “Flushing needs more affordable housing and we look forward to working with AAFE and our elected leaders to make that a reality.”
Chaudhry Anwar, chairman and founder of the Asian Americans Advisory Council of USA, said they care about Flushing and its future.
“We just want to be heard and to understand why AAFE won’t provide our community with the affordable housing we really need,” Anwar said.
Adam Kim, president of Asian American Alliance NY, said they prefer AAFE to build permanent affordable housing instead of “forcing Flushing to accept transitional housing whether we want it or not.”
“We need AAFE to wake up and build permanent affordable housing that’s best for Flushing,” Kim said.
George Xu, president of the Chinese Business Association of New York, said that the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the Asian community especially hard and that they need investments that will help Flushing continue to build for years to come.
“Permanent affordable housing will provide a necessary lifeline to members of the Flushing community and help our neighborhood thrive into the future,” Xu said.
In response to Flushing United’s claims, AAFE reiterated that in the past several months that its partner, URI, along with the Department of Homeless Services (DHS), have participated in community meetings, including a meeting with Community Board 7 and two stakeholder meetings. The project was halted in order to provide more time for community discussion.
“The goal of these sessions was to engage with the Flushing community in a productive dialogue about Magnolia Gardens, an important new resource to support our most vulnerable children and their families,” AAFE told QNS. “We also responded in writing to elected officials and stakeholders, answering several rounds of questions and met with a wide array of community and nonprofit leaders.”
AAFE said they also responded in writing to elected officials and stakeholders, answering several rounds of questions and meeting with a wide array of community and nonprofit leaders. In response to community feedback and questions from elected officials, AAFE and URI developed a Housing Services & Retention Collaborative with participation from locally based providers and community partners who help reduce barriers to the placement of eligible families who have historically been underserved, including AAPI families.
While planning for construction at the site is resuming, AAFE said the project team will continue to engage with the community to share pertinent information and build productive working relationships.
The project is expected to break ground shortly after closing, now anticipated in the fall of 2022, with construction continuing for approximately 20 months.
In a statement to QNS, the city Department of Social Services (DSS) said they “engage communities on how to best shelter our fellow New Yorkers and have held several public forums to listen to folks as they make their voices heard.”
DSS added, “It is our legal responsibility to help our unsheltered neighbors and we look forward to continuing to work together as this shelter opens.”