Target development in anti-gentrification group’s crosshairs as too big for Elmhurst


Queens Neighborhoods United, an anti-gentrification group, is set to appeal what they call an “illegal” development in Elmhurst, Queens, that includes a Target. According to the organization, the new development violates the local zoning laws that prohibit construction of “big-box” department stores in the area.

Democratic nominees Catalina Cruz and Jessica Ramos joined residents of Jackson Heights, Corona, and Elmhurst, in supporting QNU outside the Board of Standard and Appeals on Thursday.

Ramos, a former city employee, said the development of “corporate giants” such as Target should be prohibited not just in Elmhurst but in Jackson Heights and Astoria too. She said big corporations often displace communities and small businesses in the neighborhood.

“I stand not just against this Target but against all of them because we know that there’s more coming up,” she said on Thursday.

QNU’s legal counsel, the Community Development Project, had initially submitted a zoning challenge to the NYC Department of Buildings on Aug. 10. The DOB had issued a stop work order in response, requiring the developer to submit new plans complying with land-use laws. QNU argues that within two weeks, DOB retracted its stop order when the developer submitted new plans, but the development still includes Target and does not address the underlying zoning issue.

QNU organizer Tania Mattos read a letter Thursday sent by longtime resident Mei who owned and operated Mei Mei gift shop at 40-32 82nd Street where the new Target is set to open. Mei, who immigrated to the United States in 1980, used all her savings to build a business that recently closed.

“It was the second best thing that happened to me after my marriage,” the letter read.

Mei, now back in China, was forced to close the store after her landlord increased the rent from $7,000 to $10,000, citing the impending Target as a sign the neighborhood was taking a turn for the luxurious.

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