Last week, the anti-gentrification group announced that they have successfully challenged the zoning at 40-31 82nd Street in Elmhurst, the site of a proposed Target. The Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued a stop-work order, which advocates believe will force developers Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group to halt their construction plans.
Patricia Chou, a spokesperson for the group, said the site is zoned for both residential and commercial, but only allows for shops that “serve local retail needs.” QNU argues that Target is a department store, which falls under a different commercial zoning category.
“They mean for it to be a regional destination, to attract people from other boroughs,” Chou said. “They don’t serve a local community.”
According to Queens Neighborhoods United, DOB issued a declaration accepting the group’s zoning challenge. The stop work order was issued on Thursday.
Chou said she believes that in the immediate term, nothing can be built on the site until the developers resubmit new plans. They may have to alter their proposal, challenge the stop work order or even go through another rezoning.
“Our hope is that they open dialogue about the need for a community center,” she said. “They haven’t done anything except build the foundation for the building.”
If this zoning challenge proves successful, Chou said it could be an avenue to challenge Target, or any other big box stores they believe displace small businesses from being built around the city.
Proposed Target stores in neighborhoods like East Village and Astoria, depending on the zoning of the lots, could face a similar issue, she said.
“If the declaration from DOB is meant to have precedence, Target isn’t supposed to be there either,” she said. “We see this as a major victory and a big precedence set for other neighborhoods fighting Target.”
Group organizer Carina Kaufman-Gutierrez said in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, the small business community sustains more than one-third of the jobs in the area.
Jackson Heights resident Allison Park said it’s “very clear” that the community does not want what the developers are proposing.
“There is not a single community member who I’ve spoken with or worked with who expressed the desire to have a megastore like Target here,” she said in a statement. “We need housing, we need education, we need hospitals.”
In a statement, Councilman Francisco Moya said it was “obvious from day one” that the project would have had devastating effects on local businesses.
“I have no monopoly on this perspective, it would have been clear to anyone who had asked,” he said. “This project is and has always been unwanted in our community and deeply unpopular among nearly every resident I’ve spoken with about it.
“Furthermore, the Target does not conform to this property’s current zoning and should not proceed,” Moya added. “I hope this sets a precedent that major corporations cannot elbow their way into neighborhoods without being called to account.”