On Tuesday 10/10/19, JFAC member and doctoral candidate and fellow at The Graduate Center, CUNY, Kristen Hackett published an opinion piece in City Limits on why we’re saying Not to Sunnyside Yards! [and calling for…] Reparative City Building Now.
In short, she demonstrates how the decision to develop over Sunnyside Yards is evidence of a larger, exclusionary city-building process. Below are a couple excerpts. Get full article here.
“The city’s consistent response to the declining habitability of [public housing] buildings and units has been that in our $90+ billion annual budget, there is no money. Instead, their solution is to outsource management and repairs to predatory equity firms through a program that we know—and the city knows—will displace existing residents.
And yet, for the succession of megaprojects the city has proposed for the region including Sunnyside Yards, there are always billions of dollars available. Specifically, $2.7 billion for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX); $3 billion in public subsidies for Amazon HQ2; and if Sunnyside Yards is anything like its predecessor Hudson Yards which cost taxpayers $5.6 billion, then this project will not only follow suit, but it will be the most expensive in the trifecta.”
“This reading of the context highlights a class-based nature of current patterns of public investment and city-building. It also highlights a race-based exclusionary nature. More than ninety percent of public housing residents and the city’s sheltered population are Black and/or Latinx. Households of color are similarly overrepresented among working-class and lower-income households, and when we look at the spatial distribution of race in southwestern Queens over the last two decades, we see that the Black community remains concentrated in public housing while the areas experiencing new development have seen an influx of whiter residents.
Race-based exclusions are evidence of past, often state-led, racially-discriminatory policies like redlining, urban renewal, and planned shrinkage, which locked working-class communities of color out of consideration or benefits related to city-building. Projects like Sunnyside Yards reify past harms while also extending this collective legacy of state-led disinvestment and violence imposed on working-class communities of color into the present, and potentially the future (EDC says Sunnyside Yards will be a reality in 50-100 years).
This trajectory of city-building becomes disturbingly grim when we look more broadly at the city’s budget-allocation decisions; specifically the recent decision to allocate $11 billion to build four new jails across the city. Working-class communities of color suffer disproportionately from policing and imprisonment. Taken together with land use decisions like Sunnyside Yards, but also “smaller” developments like Hallet’s Cove, these decisions suggest that the city is more interested in building cages to warehouse working-class communities of color rather than taking any steps to improve their quality of life and well-being. “
Other Interesting Facts:
- The city recently allocated millions of dollars for community resources in Hallet’s Cove, the peninsula that’s also home to Astoria Houses. This investment directly coincides with a new private development that borders and will soon overshadow its NYCHA neighbors. Paradoxically, this investment roughly equates to the amount needed to replace the boilers in Astoria Houses which could provide tenants with reliable heat and hot water.
- data showing employment trends in LIC (zip code 11101) between 2002 and 2015 suggests an inverse relationship between development and employment for public housing residents.
- the 20% of “affordable housing” included in the 2,400-unit Hallet’s Cove project serves households earning at minimum $34,355 per year, which is more than one full-time, minimum wage worker in NYC can earn from one job.
- The city claims that tax exemption programs like 421-a are necessary for enticing private developers to build affordable housing. They fail to mention the billions these programs cost us each year. Nor do they highlight that nearly 80% of developments receiving 421-a exemptions offer no affordable housing in exchange.