March 20, 2018 By Tara Law
A coalition of grassroots groups from across Queens launched this weekend, with the aim to put development proposals directly in the hands of community members.
The 7 Train Coalition held its first public meeting at the Immigrant Movement International headquarters at 108-59 Roosevelt Ave. in Corona on Sunday. The coalition aims to coordinate opposition to major development and rezoning applications across Queens, and ultimately plans to fight to increase community control of development by pushing for policy change on the state, city and federal level.
The coalition is currently made up of a steering committee with representatives from anti-displacement groups the Queens Anti-Gentrification Project and Coalition to Defend Corona; Anakbayan New York, a student-led Filipino group; and Migrante New York, an organization of Filipino workers.
The coalition’s platform declares an intent to push for community control of land use and city planning, more construction of low-income and public housing, and improved infrastructure.
Danica Pagulayan, the 24-year-old chairperson of Anakbayan New York, said that the coalition’s goal is “community-lead development,” instead of development that is coordinated by the city, the private sector, or nonprofits.
Pagulayan said that Sunday’s meeting was the coalition’s first attempt to reach out directly to community members.
“We wanted to share with residents what our vision is for Queens, and to see what their vision is for the community,” said Pagulayan.
The coalition plans to organize groups of community members in each neighborhood, which will be coordinated by a steering committee composed of representatives from the four grassroots groups.
The coalition was inspired by the idea that groups need to coordinate across neighborhoods, rather than promote policies that protect certain areas but encourage developers to relocate projects to neighborhoods with less organizing capability, said Michael Forest, 34, a member of the Queens Anti-Gentrification Committee and a Woodside resident.
Forest noted that although community boards are ostensibly intended to serve as direct representatives of the community, the boards serve in an advisory role and cannot strike down development or rezoning proposals.
“We want to stop these rezonings,” said Forest, “We want to stop speculation that is driving land values up, and we want to control rent prices.”
In the short term, the coalition intends to organize opposition to projects such as the proposed rezonings in Long Island City and Flushing; the Brooklyn-Queens Connector; the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God building proposed for Woodside; and the 13-story mixed-use building planned for 40-31 82nd St in Elmhurst, said Queens Anti-Gentrification Project member and Woodside resident Dan Raymond, 32.
Ultimately, the coalition aims to push for policy change that will enable communities to decide for themselves whether to agree to zoning changes and development projects, and for the community itself to submit development or zoning proposals, said Raymond.
“We want to be able to say ‘no’ to development,” said Raymond.
The group also opposes aggressive policing tactics, supports policies that protect the homeless, and opposes policing that targets immigrants, according to the organization’s platform.