Sunnyside Gentrified!

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Queens is my home. It’s my borough, it’s where I go back after a trip out of state or after a night out with friends in the “city” (Manhattan).  I was born and raised in Sunnyside, Queens and now I reside a few blocks over in Woodside. I’m glad to still be living in these neighborhoods and still consider myself part of Sunnyside, although based on zoning I’m not. I’m a 90’s kid so I remember most of the changes that occurred in the area. There used to be an A&P Supermarket on the corner of 51st Street and Roosevelt Ave.  It then changed into a Foodtown in the late 90’s and is now currently a 24 Hour Rite Aid. There used to be a 24/7 Bodega on the corner of 48th and Queens Blvd where there’s a Gamestop now. This change was good it meant the city was doing better as well as the neighborhood. The area was predominately older people, middle class families with children of many different races. I learned about the history of Sunnyside through some online reading and some older neighbors.  It was mostly Irish before the late 80’s and an influx of immigrants moved into the area by the 90’s.

My family owns a small building via partnership of my father, two uncles, and my grandfather.  They struggled and saved everything through the 80’s to move from Corona to Sunnyside. Luckily we weren’t racially steered away from the property. We lived in that building for 20 years and now it’s more of an asset for the family because most of us have moved out into houses in the area. It’s not that we could afford to purchase houses out of pocket, we’re just paying it off with a heavy mortgage.  Thanks to the building we can pay off those mortgages with a bit of ease. It’s been great being able to live a middle class life and I’m grateful for it. Although soon enough it won’t be the same since the area is changing so rapidly.

The only thing is that the change is ongoing. It’s as if the domino fell over by a gamble and now it just keeps going and going.  What I’m referring to is the “domino effect” of gentrification. Developers have noticed that the area is promising with many vacant lots and it being close to the city. Mom and pop shops have opened and shut. Small businesses are being replaced by chain restaurants. For example there was a Beauty Supply Store on 46th Street between Greenpoint Ave. and Queens Blvd. now it’s a Paris Baguette.  Rent is regularly increasing as well as the cost of food and services in the neighborhood. It always about business rather than the people living in the neighborhood.  The old apartment we rent out is $2000 per month as of this year. It seems there are way more young white upper class professionals trying to live in the area. In turn it “pushes out” middle class folks that are trying to raise families, much like my parents in the 90’s. This is a lose-lose situation for the middle class area as well as any low-income areas surrounding it.

The Sunnyside Post, a local newspaper, talks about “Phipps Houses to go up at 50-22 Barnett Avenue” which is only a few blocks from my home. It is said to be an “affordable” housing complex that is to be 10-stories tall with 220 units. This has been talked about since 2015. The idea of this building is threatening to people living in the area. The Queens Anti-Gentrification Project was formed by locals in Sunnyside, Woodside, and Jackson Heights. The group helped as being an opposition to the plans for this housing. They believed that the term “affordable” was just a term used to sound good for development which they had proof of based on similar developments at Hunters Point in Long Island City. In the Hunters Point South development studios cost $1500-$2000; 1 bedrooms cost $2000-2500; 2 bedrooms cost $2300 – $3000. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer  had agreed to stop the development and the idea was scrapped. There is a parking lot there and I’m sure they were going to use eminent domain to make way for the new housing but would it really have been so bad? To be honest I’m not sure. Based on an article by, a spokesperson for the mayor said, “Let’s not mince words: this is bad for our city and for working families struggling to pay their rent,” and “No community, certainly not one with 7,000 people wait-listed for affordable housing, should lose a development like this.” The problem is believability of affordable housing. Some commenters in the post were arguing about middle-class not wanting affordable housing in order to not help low-income people and keep the area the way it is. Others said that it was just a ploy to make a so called “affordable” luxury housing complex. I think the truth lies somewhere in between.

Phipps, the non-profit developer’s,  claims that the housing will be for people making an income of $30,000-$120,000.  It seems a bit broad to me, but more so I care to see them help people of low-income than the comfortable upper middle class. The income range seems too big, although based on statistics of  income in the area, 13% make less than $20,000. Those people will have to struggle, suffer and end up living in low-income housing projects. Based on another article by Sunnyside Post the development is back on the table and they are  “targeting a construction financing closing in June 2017.” My guess is that this is going to be built. I really wish the best for the people of this neighborhood but mostly for people of low-income trying to make their way up through social mobility. I think personally the images of the housing complex look very upper class and luxurious. It makes me feel as if it’s a ploy but maybe just this once it will be something of nicer quality for lower income folks to live in. I hope it holds to what it promises. It will most likely affect the cost of living for everyone including my family but I think if it helps other low income and middle class families, it would be worth it.


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  1. I feel like I can completely understand your point of view. I live on Woodside, and even though I would agree that the Queens Anti- Gentrification has done its job in maintaining a stable rent and housing prices, there is definitely a new public coming to live in the area. I think it would be harder for me to try to comprehend what gentrification is until you see it happening in front of you. Apartments for families are the hardest to find, and sadly they are the group of people that need the most help. From the examples of businesses that you mentioned, there is also a great amount of rebranding happening, which are appealing a new market that is not a typical social economic class that lives in the area. It is a really sad situation what is happening, but from what it seems it simply is because of the way city politics is structured, that makes it almost impossible for regular citizens to do anything about it.

  2. Perhaps the most shocking information in this article is the range of incomes that this building is claiming to serve. $30,000 per year is essentially living in poverty in New York, while $120,000 per year places earners in the upper-middle class. The statistic that 13 percent of the people living in that area of Sunnyside earn less than $20,000 each year does not help their cause. This apartment complex is claiming to be “community-based” to gain approval, but does nothing to actually help the community.

    Additionally, the issue is not that people of different social classes inherently cannot reside within the same vicinity. The problem arises when stores and businesses emerge in this community that only benefit the wealthier residents. Grocery stores like Whole Foods with expensive, organic food is not affordable to those who can barely pay rent. This apartment building represents the early stages of gentrification: there is some availability for lower-income residents, but the complex also caters to wealthier individuals and families. After this, businesses move in and provide goods and services to the wealthy. Poorer residents cannot afford to live in such expensive conditions, and are forced to move from their homes.

    It is a shame that this neighborhood is undergoing this transformation. With so many people searching for affordable housing (over 7,000, as the article mentioned), there are few options for them. Urban renewal only improves the city for the wealthy; it only “renews” the idea that the poor are pushed aside.

  3. Coming from California, it is hard for me to fully grasp what the neighborhoods and boroughs were like back in the day. Besides photographs, I don’t have a great understanding of this never ending gentrification. I feel like your blog post made it clearly stated that sSnnyside is being rapidly gentrified. I have noticed that many parts of Brooklyn are the same way. For instance, in Clinton Hill, across from Pratt, you can find the long lived bodega on one corner, and the newly renovated, vegan health foods store on the other. Its interesting to learn more about the background of your neighborhood, and it inspired me to do more research on my own.

  4. After reading your post, I can see the change in Sunnyside right in my eyes even though I never been there before. The changes, lijke what you say, are going by details. The change is a good thing, but it also bring the increase of other such as the rent like what you point and it limites the life quilities of people who work with only little pay that half of it go into the rent. Also, I agree with your point that the change brings up the cost of food too and I hope people will have more chances to make up their social mobility.

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