Saturday, May 27, 2017

7 Controversial Ways To Stop Gentrification in Southeast Queens

St. Albans Long Island Rail Road Station
By Kamau Austin

I notice many Jamaica/Southeast Queens, residents are beginning to become very anxious about the increased development going on in the area.  Our area is the 3rd and last epicenter of Black culture left in NYC after Harlem and Central Brooklyn have been increasingly gentrified.

I remember the days in Downtown Brooklyn when Black residents started businesses and renovated brownstones similar to brothers and sisters uptown in Harlem.  They made these areas trendy only to be now considered outsiders in communities they helped build up.

You walk around Fort Greene, these days and people look at you like you must be lost in the neighborhood when in actuality I helped promote businesses in the area and make them trendy along with business people like Spike Lee, Carol's Daughter Founder Lisa Price, Bill Lester formerly of Kinapps, Moshood and countless other entrepreneurs, home owners, and industrious residents in Brooklyn and Harlem.

I moved to Brooklyn for 15 years, but was born and raised in Queens.  I was tired of all the 1 1/2 hour commutes to Manhattan to work so I moved to brownstones in Bed Stuy Brooklyn and Fort Greene where it literally only takes 20 minutes to get to Manhattan to work.  And this is the main impetus for gentrification in NYC too - close proximity to Manhattan.

One of the reasons I moved back to live in Queens now is with Internet and mobile technology you can work from anywhere.  If you have freelance skills or can arrange to be a virtual worker commuting to Manhattan isn't an issue during the week.

Kamau Austin, Publisher
The Southeast Queens Scoop
However, I do see development going on in the Jamaica Ave area especially around Parsons and Supthin Blvds.  I also see quite a bit of development going on in St. Albans, around the LLRR station. These may become major targets of gentrification because it only takes 30 minutes to get to Manhattan from Jamaica Avenue, and only 15 minutes to get to Midtown Manhattan on the LLRR from St. Albans.

So as a person who saw how the Harlem and Bed Stuy communities upscaled themselves only to be eventually priced out of their neighborhoods, these are some of my controversial suggestions to stop (or at least control) gentrification.  I'm not an urban planner but these are some of my thoughts on the issue.

> 1. Buy and Renovate Area Property - Southeast Queens property is a good investment if managed properly.  Renovate it and if you are retiring sell it to family members or community members.  Keep the property in your family or sell to community/neighbors.

> 2. Create Microfinance and Credit Unions - you can't leave it up to national commercial banks to fuel economic community development.  We as residents have to invest in creating funds to finance neighborhood businesses, real estate, and other assets.

Other ethnic groups have created multi-billion dollar nonprofit microfinance organizations that lend tens of millions of dollars to start businesses just in the NYC area.  The Latino microfinance organization Accion started like this and so did Grameen Bank.  Google these organizations if you never heard of them.  They started small and now loan billions in business loans as nonprofits. The Southeast Queens Federal Credit Union effort is getting very close to being launched.  You can support that effort or join one of the other credit unions in the area.  There is a Qside Federal Credit Union and a couple of Actors Credit Unions in the area if you are in the performing arts.  You can just google credit unions in Southeast Queens.

> 3. Start Businesses or Support Them in the Area.  This will build ownership of the business sectors in the community and help keep them from being completely taken over by outside interests or national chains.  On Saturday, July 29th, 2017 we at the Southeast Queens Scoop will be sponsoring a Southeast Queens Small Business Expo.  

The theme of the Expo will be "Shop For $uccess!  The purpose of the Expo is to raise awareness and support for neighborhood businesses in our residential areas (not just Jamaica Center).  For more information or to become a vendor click here.

A vibrant business section in the residential areas of Southeast Queens will also tend to increase property values of the real estate and offer community owned services and increase wealth in the neighborhood.  It will also create local jobs for residents.

> 4. Negotiate with National Chains - When national chains move into the area negotiate with them to include area entrepreneurs in their business programs.  For instance Whole Foods, is moving into Harlem but local residents negotiated that Whole Foods has to carry some natural products from Black and entrepreneurs of color around the area. Don't allow the national chains to just pull money out the area without giving back to our business development.

 > 5. Attend Avoid Foreclosure and Tax Lien Classes -  Local politicians like State Senator James SandersLeroy Comrie, and Donovan Richards, have events to help Southeast Queens residents handle foreclosure and tax lien issues.  In fact, Senator Sanders, we've been notified, has a lawyer on staff to help stop foreclosures - free of charge to area residents.   We've covered these events before in the Southeast Queens Scoop perhaps sign up for the newsletter to receive updates on these issues.  These sessions may help you to maintain your property if you are in financial hardships.

> 6. Support efforts for Affordable Housing in the Area - we as residents have to support community organizations like Allen AME and Habitat for Humanity's efforts to build affordable housing in the area so more of us can stay here. Allen AME has managed to build senior citizen and 1st time buyers housing for decades in our area.

Other churches are following suit like Calvary Baptist Church, on Guy Brewer Blvd, with a housing complex incorporating helping senior citizens raising their grandchildren.  You can read about this progressive housing idea by clicking here.
You can read about Habitat for Humanity's efforts by clicking here . We have to continue to support efforts so working and middle income families can continue to live in Southeast Queens.

> 7. Allow some AirBnB in the area - This is the most controversial proposal I've written. But with everything being so expensive in Southeast Queens, with high taxes, water bills, transportation, and food the only way some home owners will be able to stay in the area is by renting out some of their property to tourists visiting NYC.

I'm not saying get crazy with it but allow home owners to rent out one or two AirBnB units to the tourist trade.  New York City gets 30 million tourists a year.  That's 500,000 tourists a day in NYC.  The hotels and motels can't handle all that business and jack up the prices.

In moderation let some Southeast Queens home owners make good money doing AirBnB so that way they can afford to stay in the area.  I'll get hate mail from some community groups and Real Estate brokers over this one.  But we want to retain middle income homeowners in the area and they may have to diversify their income to be able to afford to stay due to cost of living increases in the area.

But enough of what I think.  Please share your ideas on gentrification in the comment section below...

Kamau Austin, is the publisher of the Southeast Queens Scoop.

About the Southeast Queens Scoop - is the premier website and only publication offering daily news and updates on the events, culture, issues, and is dedicated to the business and economic development in this largely black historic community. To get our free weekly newsletter Click Here

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  1. We are being displced because we do not insulate our communities. We have a trillion dollar economy and spend less than 10% of that money amongst ourselves. Other groups cone into our communities and enrich themselves while many times offering inferior quality products and customer service; and often do mot reinvest in our communities. Other groups engage in and understand the benefits of group economics. We run the other way, and give our wealth away to everyone but ourselves. Garvey and contemporary financial scholar Claude Anderson left a blue print. Either we embrace their approach or watch our community members become dispalced ala Harlem and Central Brooklyn.

    1. Jamal in Harlem and Brooklyn we did what Garvey advocated and started our own businesses and owned real estate. Ironically what happened is other people became attracted to our communities and wanted to take over.

      That is why I am advocating going beyond what Garvey and Claude Anderson are saying. For instance if you walk on Linden Blvds or Farmers Blvds 75% or 80% of the businesses on that strip are Black owned.

      So we are starting an economic base. But we have to go beyond just owning businesses and real estate and build our own business loan organizations, lobby or politicians, etc.

      Also we need to create tech and business incubators so our businesses are more cutting edge using digital technology. We all are on Facebook and social media but how many of us use it effectively in our businesses? These are just other factors in addition to what Garvey and Dr. Anderson are advocating.