City Hall rally urges New York to rethink rezoning plans and stop mega-developments

Protesters call Trump and de Blasio one and the same.
Photo by Dean Moses

Activists say they’ve had enough with mega-developments and “exclusionary” rezoning plans in New York.

Community activists from all over New York City assembled outside of City Hall on Wednesday to fight against proposed rezoning plans, particularly following the City Council’s approval of the “Special Flushing Waterfront Development.” 

“These politicians should be ashamed of themselves! Amidst a global pandemic they are upzoning our cities to gentrify our people for the real estate lobby when we are in the midst of the largest eviction crisis in our history. You want to build more houses that we can’t afford when people are going to be living in the streets,” said Dannelly Rodriguez. 

Many demonstrators feel that uprzoning has a racist agenda. Photo by Dean Moses

About 11 speakers from over 60 community organizations joined forces to oppose this luxury development, which they fear will drive out longtime residents.

Gentrification has been a longtime controversial topic as New York not only expands skyward, but also outward, redeveloping older buildings. This is often discussed at many City Council meetings, and many locals say they’re tired of being priced out of their homes. 

With their fists in the air, protesters shouted, “Shame, shame, and shame!” Attendees were disgusted with how elected officials have handled the homelessness crisis, demanding that rents be canceled and upzoning be ceased. 

Upzoning is where luxury or privatized real estate buildings are developed upon purchasing empty lots or reconstructing tenement houses.

MinKwon Center combats racist and exclusionary rezoning. Photo by Dean Moses

Activists at the rally argued that this form of rezoning is racist seeing as those affected are disproportionately Black, Latino, and Asian. Instead of seizing public spaces for private gain, they are demanding that more funds be allocated toward public infrastructure, including public housing.

In light of these issues, MinKown Center and other local organizations at Wednesday’s City Hall march pushed for the “Community Declaration on the Future of New York.”  This declaration singles out Mayor Bill de Blasio administration’s alleged focus on luxury developments and calls for this form of rezoning to end. 

Speakers shared emotional accounts on how rezoning as affected their communities. Photo by Dean Moses

“These luxury developments throughout the city have been nothing but a giveaway to the developers. Developers are granted special permit, tax benefits, and deregulation at the expense of the community. The Flushing community has been bearing the burden of this environmental racism and is suffering from displacement due to this predatory development. Enough is enough. We should not have to suffer at the whims of greedy developers. The concerns of our community should be of utmost importance in any development plan, since we are mostly directly impacted by that plan,” said Seonae Byeon, lead organizer at the MinKwon Center. 

In Chinatown and the Lower East Side, a similar instance of upzoning has been a much heated topic of discussion with the creation of mega-towers in Two Bridges.

Members of the Chinatown Working Group have developed a rezoning plan that will offer equal protection and true affordable housing for the community. Organizers say their plan was rejected by de Blasio because it was too ambitious. 

Other speakers shared how their particular neighborhoods have felt the wrath of gentrification, and hope that this rally is just one battle in their war against exclusionary rezoning. 

Protesters climb a nearby subway station to get a better view of speakers. Photo by Dean Moses