Jan. 3, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU), the local anti-gentrification group, is continuing its battle to block Target from opening a store on 82nd Street, with a lawsuit it filed last month against the corporate giant and the Department of Buildings set to be heard next week.
The organization, which has been fighting against the rezoning and development of the property at 40-31 82nd Street since early 2017, will present its case before the New York Supreme Court on Jan. 10. It aims to prove that the big-box store does not conform to zoning code and that construction needs to stop.
The hearing, which will follow a rally planned at Dunningham Triangle on Jan. 6 against the proposed store, is the latest in QNU’s fight against Target, which it claims will put smaller immigrant-owned shops out of business and change the face of the neighborhood, among other concerns.
The site’s developers, the Heskel Group and Sun Equity Partners, shelved their plans for a 13-story building at the location in July after much community opposition, with QNU being their most outspoken critic.
The developers instead decided to pursue their back up project for the site–a two-story building, with a Target originally set to occupy the entirety of the ground floor. The Department of Buildings signed off on the plan in July.
But QNU challenged the DOB’s decision to approve the plan, arguing that the design and inclusion of the big-box store did not conform to zoning code, which the group says prohibits such stores.
The proposed Target site is located in a commercial district that is reserved for stores that meet “local consumer needs,” with these establishments limited to 10,000 square feet.
QNU achieved a temporary victory in August, when the DOB, In response to the challenge, agreed and issued a stop work order.
The stop work order, however, was lifted by the DOB in October when the agency approved the development team’s revised plan that called for the ground floor to be split into five storefronts, with Target to be in one of the store fronts and split between the cellar and ground floor.
QNU, which disagreed with the DOB’s findings, appealed the decision and filed a notice of objection with the Board of Standards and Appeals in October. But the case, given the agency’s backlog, is still pending and set to be heard in March, the group said.
In the meantime, construction on the site continues, with a deep hole having already been dug.
With time being of essence, QNU decided to take its fight to the New York Supreme Court, submitting a petition in late November against the DOB’s decision and calling for construction to stop and the building permits be rescinded. The petition is against the DOB, Target and the developers.
The move, according to Carina Kausman-Gutierrez, a QNU organizer, aims to slow down construction before a final decision is rendered. The more the developers actually build, the more likely they will win, due to the large investment that has already been made, she said.
“Our point of doing this is to support the immigrant run businesses that made this neighborhood what it is,” Kaufman-Gutierrez said.
The Jan. 6 protest in Jackson Heights leading up to the court date will also be attended by local officials, such as State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos.
Neither Heskel Group nor Sun Equity Partners were able to be reached for comment within press time.
The rally, titled “People’s Court Speak Out,” will be held at 1 p.m. on Jan. 6 at Dunningham Triangle, located at 82nd Street and Baxter Avenue. The New York Supreme Court case will be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 10 at 60 Center St.
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