The anti-gentrification group convinced Community Board 4 to vote against the rezoning proposal. They pressured local elected officials and political candidates to oppose the project.
In July, they fought successfully to force the developer to withdraw its rezoning application, and settle for a smaller version of the development.
QNU even challenged the zoning of the Target in August, and got the Department of Buildings (DOB) to issue a stop work order and a notice of intent to revoke the permit on the site.
According to a DOB spokesperson, the challenge said the zoning for the lot would not allow for just a single store. The agency agreed.
But on September 17, the developers behind the project, Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group, revised their plans. The new proposal called for five separate stores, each under 10,000 square feet, which the DOB spokesperson said complied with both the zoning resolution and the use for the lot.
DOB approved the plan and removed the stop work order.
However, QNU and their legal counsel, Community Development Project, isn’t giving up without a fight. Last Thursday, advocates rallied in front of 250 Broadway, which houses the New York City Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).
They filed a legal challenge to the building of the Target, and called on BSA to tell the Department of Buildings to “do its job.”
“The New York City Charter is clear,” said Paula Segal, a senior staff attorney at the Community Development Project and counsel to QNU. “It is the job of the Department of Buildings to enforce the carefully crafted use regulations in the democratically created zoning resolution.”
As an administrative body, BSA has the authority to tell any city agency to “fix their mistakes,” Segal said.
QNU co-founder Tania Mattos said at the start of the rally that the Target is being built illegally. She said the zoning along 82nd Street prohibits big box stores.
“We believe this calls into question the legality of not only this Target, but multiple Targets across New York City,” Mattos said.
They were joined by Democratic State Senate nominee Jessica Ramos and Assembly nominee Catalina Cruz, as well as business owners and residents from the area who say they’ve been negatively affected by the plan.
Mercedes Cano, an attorney who works down the street from the proposed Target, said small businesses are already suffering. She noted that construction has impeded ambulances from getting to nearby Elmhurst Hospital, and parking is much worse.
“Small businesses now are closing down, like bakeries and 99-cent stores,” Cano said. “We are very opposed to this situation.
“I’ve been on that street since 2004, I’ve seen how the other side of 82nd Street has changed,” she added. “Now, it’s coming into our area. We’ve got to do something.”
Mei Mei Discount & Gift, just across the street from the former Jackson Heights Cinema site, has already closed because of rent hikes, according to Mattos. The store owner said the rent jumped from $7,000 to $10,000 in one month.
QNU member Arianna Martinez said she feels confident in the group’s legal challenge because “we have our basis in the law and zoning code.” On the other hand, she said, they have felt confident before.
“We’ve had so many successes along the way, and still we’re here struggling,” she said. “We’ve just been pursuing it the best we can throughout.”
If the legal challenge fails, Martinez said they will regroup and strategize their next step. QNU has already garnered support from local elected officials and, increasingly, the community, she said.
They’ve also launched a social media campaign encouraging locals to boycott the Target, if it ever gets to that point.
“We’re boycotting it before it even exists,” Martinez said. “That may be the next step, but all along, our goal has been it not being built at all.”