For decades, Southeast Queens has been held up as a model of the American Dream for those striving for a better life. Our communities in Southeast Queens have more than 220,000 residents claiming African American and Caribbean American heritage, many of whom themselves (or their parents and grandparents) left other denser parts of the city – often at greater cost and expense than most other ethnic groups in the city – to have some breathing room, own their own home, a backyard, grass and trees and to give their children a better life.
From Hillside Avenue to JFK Airport, Lefferts Blvd. to the Nassau County line, our mostly suburban neighborhoods have survived and thrived despite systemic racism and redlining. We cherish our low-density communities in Southeast Queens, and we have consistently defended our detached one-family zoning in places like Addisleigh Park, Cambria Heights, Hollis, Jamaica, Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, St. Albans, South Ozone Park, and Springfield Gardens. Additionally, over 60% of our residents own their own homes, more than double the citywide average.
We want to be clear: we are united with all of our neighbors in Queens, Staten Island, the rest of New York City, the suburbs in Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and beyond regardless of race, ethnicity or economic background who oppose the “Housing Compact” which, in our estimation, will be the equivalent of a nuclear bomb going off in our communities.
Having the Governor mandate more development in southeast Queens, increasing density by 500% within ½ mile of our LIRR stations, forcing increases in housing if we don’t do it ourselves by overriding local zoning, giving blanket amnesty to dangerous and deadly basement and cellar apartments – these are extinction level policies that will wipe out our neighborhoods, plain and simple. Most of our elected officials from southeast Queens understand this.
Some supporters of Gov. Hochul’s plan, such as Assemblywoman Emily Gallagher of Brooklyn have equated single-family zones with Jim Crow practices, and have deemed the governor's plan as necessary to achieve "racial justice." While historically that is true, it does not apply to our communities in Southeast Queens in 2023.
What we’ve achieved over the years is the ability to live the life we want, where we want and how we want.
The governor's plan, far from bringing "racial justice" to our black and brown communities in Southeast Queens and other areas, would bring devastation throughout our neighborhoods if implemented.
The financial and political gains that African Americans have made in our city, our suburbs and across the State – our top elected officials except for the Governor herself are African American in both the State and the City – all of this will be lost if the “Housing Compact” becomes law.
We are the civic leadership of Southeast Queens. We are Black and we are 100% opposed to Governor Hochul’s “Housing Compact” and the attempts to increase density exponentially in our communities. We hope that the Governor and Legislature are listening very carefully.
Addisleigh Park Civic Association
Alpha Street Civic Association
Brinkerhoff Action Association
Eastern Queens Alliance
Greater Triangle Civic Association
Queens Village Civic Association
St. Albans Civic Improvement Association
149th Street South Ozone Park Civic Association
221/222 Street Block Association
South Ozone Park Civic Association West
Sojourner Truth Democratic Club
United Coalition for Veterans & Community Rights (UCVCR)
United Neighbors Civic Association (UNCA)
Wayanda Civic Association
Dear friends -
A few days ago Mayor Mary Marvin, the Mayor of Bronxville, wrote an excellent letter on Governor Hochul's Housing Compact and the utter destruction it will cause to our communities should it be made into law.
I wanted to send it to you as a reminder of what we stand for - and what we will lose if this is not pulled out of the omnibus budget bill by April 1st.
As many of you know, the "One House" bill submitted by the State Senate and Assembly on Monday does just this. However, we must continue to fight to make sure there is no backsliding or compromise from our elected officials, as Gov. Hochul is still pretending that her version of the bill is the only one that exists.
As previously discussed, we will be having a series of press conferences and rallies this week around the Metropolitan area. I will be following up with another email in the next 24 hours with final confirmation of locations and times so we can make our voices heard!
So many of you have reached out to me after learning about Governor Hochul’s “Housing Compact.” I want to assure you that it is a front burner issue with all of the Trustees and I am personally working with many of our Westchester colleagues, especially the small communities surrounding rail stations as the impact is of enormous significance. As a colleague from Suffolk County said, based on the numbers required in the Transit Oriented Development (TOD) piece — in our case a new zoning law requiring a minimum of 50 units per acre in the half-mile radius around the train station — enactment of the law could be an “extinction level event” for small towns and villages.
As a recap, the Housing Compact is a two-pronged initiative; the first requiring us to build 75 new housing units every three years. Should we not meet this goal, a new fast-track approval mechanism would be automatically triggered at the state level for mixed income, multifamily projects, notwithstanding any local zoning, planning and land-use regulations to the contrary.
Part Two is a compulsory rezoning of the area around the train station, requiring us to pass an amendment to Village law, adding a new section, so named, “Density of residential dwellings near transit stations,” and in our case, allowing 50 units at a minimum per acre or 10,000 new potential housing units.
This compact is labeled an affordable housing initiative, which is a goal most everyone agrees is a worthy endeavor, but the language in this flawed proposal actually does not require any of these units to be affordable and all could be built at market rate or above market rate levels so the overriding purpose is completely obliterated.
What is incredibly important is the provision, should we not hit the state dictated numbers, that allows builders and developers to build mixed income multifamily projects, notwithstanding any local land-use regulations including lot coverage, open space, height, setbacks, floor area ratios and permeable surface requirements. As you can imagine, developers are absolutely salivating, as it would offer carte blanche to build the structures of their choice in our communities. The builder/developer lobby is so powerful in Albany that it is a bit of David and Goliath as we try to counter their lobbying with our words as their advocacy funding is in high gear. What exacerbates this detrimental situation is that none of these projects would require state environmental laws be triggered, let alone any local ones on the subject as to floodplains and impermeable surfaces.
In true irony this week, Trustee Mary Behrens, Jim Palmer and I spoke with Congressman Jamaal Bowman’s office and representatives from the State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Army Corps of Engineers about the persistent flooding in our community with the hope of near-term solutions to alleviate the perennial problem. While we are doing this, developers are waiting to come into the Village to build with no environmental checks or balances.
The problem is further magnified in the 11 communities in the New York State Watershed Area subject to the Transit Oriented Development rules, where very stringent environmental laws assure the water quality for the 9 million plus of us in the southern Westchester suburbs and New York City who depend on it for our drinking water. It now appears the governing authorities, responsible for the watershed at the Department of Environmental Conservation, were not in on the discussion formulating the housing proposal.
Also, not allowed in the building equation is a community’s capacity for water and sewage service, police coverage, fire protection, road construction, parking and the education of students.
To cover these costs, the governor has offered $250 million as the stipend for the entire State of New York.
To put in real terms, a sewer pipe costs approximately $1,000 per linear foot and this does not take into account the long-term cleaning, re-lining and water treatment. Just to repair their aging sewer/water infrastructure, our neighbors in Mt. Vernon received $150 million in state aid, and this does not even cover the entire project.
The governor’s statewide stipend would cover the infrastructure needs of realistically one medium-sized community so the rest of us would be saddled with the largest unfunded mandate in state history.
This type of top-down, no-local-input and punitive approach is the antithesis of what makes New York communities unique and appealing. What is best for Yonkers should not be best for North Salem, nor North Salem’s rules for Bronxville. One-size-fits-all is not the answer.
As point of reference, Bronxville already has a density factor greater than White Plains and over 40 percent of our housing units are apartments, co-ops and condominiums.
The tax burden imposed on current residents would be unfathomable and further accelerate exodus to low-taxed states. We already lost one Congressional seat due to southern migration and this could only further exacerbate departures.
It is important to note that Bronxville wants to be a bipartisan partner in a solution but this current plan is fatally flawed.
Our two elected representative, Senator Shelley Mayor and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin have lent strong voices in opposition to the “Housing Compact” as written, but I urge you to lend your voice by contacting the governor at 518-474-8390, by email or by mail: The Honorable Kathy Hochul, Governor of New York State, NYS State Capitol Building, Albany, NY 12224.
Mayor of Bronxville