Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE) hosted a community meeting in Flushing, Queens on June 12, 2008 to discuss the Willets Point Development plan. The meeting was co-sponsored by the Queens for Affordable Housing coalition (QFAH). AAFE sent out the following meeting summary, in preparation for tonight’s Community Board 7 public hearing on the Willets Point plan, which will be held at 6pm at 33-23 Union Street in Flushing.

The Plan: What’s in it for Queens residents?
Willets Point is the area bordering the neighborhoods of Flushing and Corona, directly adjacent to Mets Shea Stadium and the newly built Citi Park. The city has proposed a sweeping plan of the area and aims to redevelop Willets Point into housing, retail, commercial and entertainment space. This is a public project that will utilize city and federal funds. While the development of Willets Point presents an exciting opportunity to advance the local community, many participants pointed out that the plan lacks the provision of affordable housing for low and moderate income families. New York City is amidst an affordable housing crisis and the Willets Point development provides a unique opportunity to create the affordable housing stock that is desperately needed by Queens residents.
The concerns raised at the meeting focused on the planned 5,500 housing units of which 20% or 1,100 units are targeted for households of four making greater than $55,000 per year. This will effectively exclude over half of the families in Queens, as the average median income of a household in the area is only $45,000 (based on 2006 data). In this meeting, attended by local residents, elected officials, leaders of different neighborhood associations, educational institutions, faith-based organizations and other local groups, the participants shared anecdotes on how the shortage in affordable housing has affected their neighborhoods.

Planning for affordable housing.
“The need for affordable housing cannot be overemphasized. We are losing our working class and immigrants who are the backbone of our community’s growth and development,” says Ken Cohen, NAACP President of Northeast Queens Branch. Developments of luxury condominiums and apartment buildings are sprouting out in Flushing at an alarming rate pricing out newcomers and pushing out the old time residents who have painstakingly worked to bring Flushing to where it is today but now cannot afford to stay in the neighborhood that they helped build.
Community leaders who were in attendance outlined the need for more cooperative action among local and neighborhood organizations as the fight for affordable housing is also a struggle to maintain community and the immigrant neighborhoods. Representatives of elected officials assured the attendees of their support of the community’s initiative to create and preserve affordable housing in Queens. Council Member John Liu’s representative, John Choe, reiterated CM Liu’s commitment to this undertaking, saying that
his office has worked with some of his colleagues and other city officials to urge the mayor to fulfill his promise of creating affordable housing in the city. Pauline Yu, Community Liaison from the Mayor’s Community Assistance Unit, has indicated that she will bring the community’s concerns to the mayor and declared, again, the Mayor’s pledge towards affordable housing. After the meeting, the community residents signed petitions for their elected officials to work on this important agenda.