Part II: Residents Say No To Mayor Adam’s “City of Yes” Proposal

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One & Two-Family Homes Will Be Endangered

The Voice of New Yorkers Must Not Be Ignored

Local residents among New Yorkers are increasingly in opposition of the controversial City of Yes proposal, conceived by Mayor Eric Adams and the City Planning Commission. 

Last week’s column featured the perspectives of community leaders from the Forest Hills Community & Civic Association, Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, and the Forest Hills Van-Court Association. This week will feature the positions of residents, including those who testified in response to the Community Board 6 Land Use / Housing / Landmark Committee Hearing for the City of Yes for Housing Opportunity on June 4. 

Some testimonies were emailed, but based on in-person testimony, over 30 guests spoke in opposition, while 4 spoke in favor. Residents’ widespread sentiment was that in a democracy, majority rules. The next meeting will be held in front of the full board of CB 6 on June 18 at 7 PM at Queens Borough Hall, room 213. A public forum will take place, and then a vote is scheduled.  Public comment signup will close at 3 PM on that day, and requests must be sent to

The couple thousand-page proposal could significantly alter the residential and commercial environments of citywide neighborhoods by amending and stripping numerous zoning regulations, and therefore nullify the distinctive and contextual characteristics that residents, Community Boards, elected officials, shop owners, and urban planners have advocated for throughout several decades. It could also pose disastrous consequences for owners of one and two-family homes and small businesses. 

The Queens Civic Congress launched a petition towards Mayor Adams, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, and City Council: Based on 2,437 signatures to date, 81 percent of signers encompass zip codes 11375, 11357, and 11361. 

Upon learning about the City of Yes proposal, longtime Forest Hills resident Dorothy Schreiber explained that Forest Hills is already overdeveloped, and such a proposal would intensify matters. “Zoning permitting high-rise buildings are overwhelming some already crowded streets, public transportation, available parking spots, sidewalks and thoroughfares.” Schreiber favors the proposal’s adaptive reuse component. “We need to utilize existing structures to create more affordable housing and parking facilities, but not sprawling parking lots.” 

While the city’s proposal may result in demolishing signature buildings along the historic corridors of Austin Street and Metropolitan Avenue, Schreiber hopes the preservation and beautification wishes of many residents will be granted in a most timely manner. “Working with the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce to adopt restrictions on facades and store signage, to return the shopping area to a quaint and eye appealing environment, would benefit the commercial and residential population. Greening the area with trees, flower boxes, and shaded benches would add pedestrian appeal.”  

Jacqueline Jones, who provided testimony, urged CB 6 members to not permit one and two-family home neighborhoods to be destroyed by modifying zoning at large. She explained, “Families moved to these neighborhoods for safety and peace. Adding shops along a block of houses will bring noise and disruption, as people buy beer and stand around drinking it. We already have shops, a reasonable distance away. We have multifamily buildings, and more going up all over the place. Most are not affordable, and neither will the new ones.” She also feels that more dwellings cannot be erected without increasing resources for prospective incoming residents. “Buses and subways, water mains, sanitation pickup, sewers, schools, police… all of these are already spread thin, and adding more dwellings will make it much harder to be safe and clean,” she continued. 

“Remember block-busting from the 1950s?” asked Jones. “All it takes is for a developer to get one house, turn the property into a three-family unit with a dwelling in the backyard and another in the garage, and the neighbors will move, freeing up a land grab. I saw it happen when I was a child, and it can happen with ease in Forest Hills. Owning multiple adjacent properties will let developers build an apartment building, without even providing parking.” 

“I urge CB 6 to act on behalf of constituents, and not on behalf of the mayor who owes the developers for his election,” added Jones.

Past District 29 City Council candidate Donghui Zang ran for office for significant reasons, such as echoing and advocating for the voice of the people, and he frequently plays a role in community affairs. He also delivered an engaging testimony in front of CB 6. While he understands Mayor Adams’s interest in addressing the problem of the claimed “housing shortage,” he emphasizes the need for a scientific and systematic study, considering all infrastructure factors, such as water, electricity, transportation, schools, hospitals, and affordability. Additionally, he explained, “Sufficient community engagements would form the best solution, which likely vary within neighborhoods and districts, and that would not only preserve the unique characteristics of the community, but meet the requirements of urban development.”  

Zang called the current rendition of the City of Yes “a very hasty plan.” He explained, “The proposal was rushed without engaging each community at all. If passed, it will definitely break the balance between high-density residential areas and low-density residential areas established over a century, and irreversibly destroy numerous historic, peaceful, and beautiful neighborhoods, such as Cord Meyer, Stafford Gardens, Van-Court, and the Rego Park Crescents, among hundreds that can be named throughout our five boroughs. It is very unfair to the residents, who not only love their neighborly streets, but also paid and invested in their community.” Some were investing over the course of generations, and it took a lifetime to achieve the American Dream in a house they call a home. “The current plan is a one-size-fits-all approach, so City Hall needs to do their homework,” he continued.        

“NYC is not a one-size-fits-all city,” agreed Forest Hills resident Chaya Sara. “I am concerned that the City of Yes will encourage current residents to move away from Forest Hills and Rego Park, as erecting apartment buildings in place of charming and historic one or two-family houses would financially benefit wealthy real estate developers. While these apartment buildings would only be three or four stories high, multiple apartments could be built in each apartment building, and I am very concerned that this will change the character of both neighborhoods. Our schools will become overcrowded, and adding more families will overwhelm sewer systems. There are blocks that flood every time it rains, since the sewer system cannot handle all the water. Therefore, more apartments would only make sewers worse.”

She also cited signs of overdevelopment over the past couple of years. “We certainly added more housing, such as in place of the Tower Diner and Trylon Theater/Ohr Natan sites, in addition to the Trader Joe’s building on Yellowstone Boulevard and the property just west of the former Parkside Chapel. There’s no reason we should add even more housing here.” 

Sara provided a solution. “Every City Council District should decide for themselves what is best for their communities, based on residents’ opinions.” 

Longtime local resident JP Freeley delivered a multi-faceted testimony. He explained that Queens is known for its unique, diverse neighborhoods, where each area offers distinct character and charm. “The proposed changes threaten to disrupt this character by promoting large-scale developments that are out of sync with the existing architectural and cultural fabric of our community. This could lead to a loss of identity and a sense of displacement among longtime residents.” 

In the name of environmental concerns, he emphasized that increased development can bear significant impacts, including reduced green spaces, increased pollution, and a strain on natural resources. “We must consider the long-term environmental consequences and prioritize sustainable development that preserves the quality of life for future generations.”  

He also referenced the promise of affordable housing, often not being fulfilled. “Developers frequently find loopholes or ways to circumvent affordable housing requirements, resulting in out of reach luxury apartments for most New Yorkers. We need guarantees that any new housing truly serves the needs of low- and middle-income residents.”

Community Board oversight would be diminished. Freeley said, “The City of Yes proposal includes new ‘as of right’ definitions, which allow developers to bypass such oversight for certain projects. This undermines the role of community boards in ensuring that developments align with local needs and values. Removing this oversight means that future projects could proceed without adequate input from the very people who will be most affected by them.” 

Another concern is compromised police enforcement, since as density is on the rise, the need for increased police presence and enforcement is essential. “Our current police force is already stretched thin. An influx of new residents without a corresponding increase in law enforcement resources will dilute the police’s effectiveness, potentially leading to higher crime rates and slower response times.”  

Higher density results in increased pressures on grocery shops and deliveries. “This could potentially lead to shortages and higher prices. The increased volume of deliveries will contribute to traffic, noise pollution, and wear and tear on roads, further affecting the quality of life for current residents,” said Freeley.   

The mayor’s proposal is deemed by countless residents as a means of underhanded zoning changes. Freeley explained, “The method of changing the underlying definitions of existing zoning as proposed in the City of Yes initiative is a covert way to alter zoning regulations without proper scrutiny or alerting the community. This approach lacks transparency and bypasses the usual rigorous process that ensures community input and regulatory oversight. It is essential that any zoning changes are conducted openly, and with full community involvement to maintain trust and accountability.” Stay tuned for an upcoming column featuring the Four Borough Neighborhood Preservation Alliance and a zoning expert. 

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