Development Plans for Sunset Park Opposed

Tarry Hum standing by the blueprint for the Sunset Park development. (Photo via Sing Tao Daily)

[On Aug. 30, the Department of City Planning held a hearing regarding a development project in Sunset Park. The largest scale project in the neighborhood in recent memory, the complex may permanently change the characteristics of the neighborhood. Many residents and community activists spoke against the project at the hearing. Here is an excerpt from the story in Sing Tao Daily on Aug. 31, by Rong Xiaoqing.] 

Lawyers representing the developers – a group of Chinese immigrants – presented a blueprint at the hearing showing that the project, located at 6208 8th Ave., includes a hotel, a residential condo, and an office building, adding up to 1,300,000 gross square feet. The buildings are all between 145 feet and 160 feet in height. The residential condo has 250 units, and 50 of them are designated as affordable units voluntarily by the developers, serving families earning 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). The complex also includes 100,000 square feet of medical office space, 340,000 square feet of retail/commercial area with a parking space of 1,883 lots for retail customers, a new school, a new library and a sculpture garden to showcase the works of local artists.

Tarry Hum, professor and chair of Queens College’s Department of Urban Studies who grew up in Sunset Park, said that 80 percent of New York’s AMI is $83,844, but the median income of the Asian residents in Sunset Park is only $31,290. So the affordable units the project offers are not affordable to local residents. Rather, the new buildings would boost up the real estate market and further squeeze the already limited affordable housing in the neighborhood.

She also pointed out that the public use facilities on the site are not exactly what the community needs the most. The new school would mainly serve the needs of the new residents. And the retail area would exacerbate the traffic and affect the mom and pop shops.

Li Mo, a representative from Chinatown-based CAAAV, an advocacy group working on behalf of low-income Asian immigrants and refugees, said that between 2000 and 2015, Chinatown lost 20 percent 0f its Asian residents and 15,000 affordable units. Many people moved to Sunset Park after being pushed out of Chinatown. Sunset Park should learn from the gentrification in Chinatown, Mo said, noting that a large-scale complex like this one is destined to bring problems of traffic and pedestrian safety, and squeeze public space and affordable housing. “If the developers really want to provide public facilities, why don’t they set up a community trust committee?” asked Mo.

Renae Widdison, who works for Council member Carlos Menchaca, said this is the biggest development project in the neighborhood in recent years. And the council member will support it only if it is in the interest of the public.

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