June 12, 2018 By Tara Law
Council Member Francisco Moya’s decision to support a developer’s application to rezone a site on 82nd Street has put him in the crosshairs of anti-gentrification activists.
Next Monday, two activist groups are hosting a town hall meeting in Jackson Heights to let Moya know that the are upset that he is supporting a rezoning that would allow a developer to build a 13-story, 120-unit building at 40-31 82nd St. where the Jackson Heights Cinema once stood.
Moya said last month that he would back the controversial rezoning since the developers–Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group–have agreed to designate 42 of the 120 units as “affordable” for tenants with low incomes.
The town hall, billed as “Community to Council Member Moya- NO REZONING,” is scheduled to take place at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights, located at 37-06 77th St., at 6:30 p.m. on June 18.
The event is being spearheaded by Queens Neighborhoods United and the Queens branch of the pro-immigrant coalition Hate Free Zones. The organizations argue that the development would drive up housing prices and create more traffic in the neighborhood. They also claim that Target–which has signed a lease to move into the ground floor–will drive small stores out of business.
Moya’s endorsement of the rezoning almost guarantees that it will be approved, as the City Council typically bows to the opinion of the local council member when it votes to approve a rezoning.
Moya said that he is in support of the rezoning because the developers, Heskel Group and Sun Equity Housing, have agreed to lower the income levels for units designated “affordable” and to add more low-income units.
Tania Mattos, co-founder of Queens Neighborhoods United, said that Queens Neighborhoods United invited Moya to the event so he could explain why he is endorsing the plan.
“If he doesn’t show up, that’s very telling,” Mattos said. “We think we deserve the same amount of attention as the developers.”
Moya spokesperson Ryan Sit said that the council member will be unable to attend but is open to having a meeting with the organizers where they can present their concerns.
“The door is always open if they want to talk,” Sit said.
Sit said that Queens Neighborhoods United knew before they organized the event that Moya had another engagement on June 18.
Despite Moya’s absence, the town hall will provide residents with a chance to air their concerns about the project and learn more about its potential impact, Mattos said.
The town hall will include presentations from the grassroots groups about the impact of the development on the community, as well as the ULURP rezoning process.
After the presentations, members of the community will be given the floor to ask questions.
“We want to explain to the community what is happening with the rezoning, and what is changing in the community,” said Mattos. “We want the community to understand why this rezoning is important to their lives.”
The event is intended to galvanize support for future protests and anti-gentrification actions, Mattos said.