June 4, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
Target is coming to Elmhurst as the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) voted today to approve the building plans that would permit the retail giant to open in neighborhood.
Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group, the developers of the 40-31 82 St. site, were given the green light to build their proposed two story development that would contain a small-format Target.
The BSA voted 4 to 1 in favor of the building plans that makes way for the Target store, the city agency confirmed.
The development, which has been the subject of fierce debate, will go up on a site currently zoned R6/C1-3, which permits retail stores that “serve local consumer needs” and prohibits them from exceeding 10,000 square feet in size.
The planned Target would occupy more than 23,000 square feet, although more than half the store would be in an underground cellar.
The Department of Buildings initially approved the developer’s plans, but Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU), an anti-gentrification group, challenged the decision on the grounds of the 10,000 square foot rule–appealing the decision to the BSA.
The developers argued that Target met zoning code because the square footage in the cellar does not count toward the total square footage of the store. Therefore, they said, it does not exceed 10,000 square feet.
The BSA agreed with their argument. At a May 21 meeting, BSA Chair Margery Perlmutter referred to a New York Supreme Court ruling where cellar space was deemed not to count toward the total floor area of a building.
Anti- gentrification groups fighting against the development claimed that this is a loophole the developers are trying to take advantage of to execute the project.
QNU, which has been leading the charge to prevent the development, expressed its disappointment following the vote. The group argues that the Target store would contribute to the displacement of residents and small businesses in the Elmhurst and Jackson Heights area.
“We will continue fighting and not give up until there is no Target on that site,” said Tania Mattos, co founder of QNU.
Members of QNU were escorted out of the hearing by police this morning.
The grassroots group plans to appeal the issue to the NYS Supreme Court within the next 30 days and will continue to work with the Department of Buildings on this case.
“Today, the BSA got it wrong,” said Paula Segal, senior attorney with Equitable Neighborhoods Practice at the Community Development Project, who is working with QNU. “The City cannot allow developers to bury big box stores underground to skirt the laws and regulations that protect communities in residential zoning districts.”