Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-Bronx, Queens) visited Community Board 7 for its May 18 meeting, where she updated the community on federal stimulus payments and voiced her opinion on the Special Flushing Waterfront District, which has been kept on hold along with all Uniform Land Use Review Procedure applications.
“It’s really in my colleague Congresswoman Grace Meng’s district, but I don’t support anything that displaces residents from neighborhoods their families have built for years and years,” Ocasio-Cortez said in response to a question from board member John Choe on her thoughts about the highly debated development project.
Back in February, Community Board 7 had approved the project that would rezone and redevelop the 29-acre stretch of waterfront industrial property and surrounding land in Downtown Flushing into a residential and commercial district, acting but Borough President Sharon Lee voted to disapprove the plans later that month over various concerns, including the displacement of lower-income Flushing residents. The pandemic halted the application from moving to the City Planning Commission until further notice.
“We need housing that is affordable and accessible,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The congresswoman also answered questions about the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act, recently passed in the House, which includes a second round of stimulus checks.
“A lot of people were left out of the first round,” Ocasio-Cortez said, explaining that the second round will include $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for joint filers and $1,200 more for individuals who claim up to three dependents. Although she supported the bill, Ocasio-Cortez said she seeks to change three aspects of the legislation: to remove the Employee Retention Tax Credit with the Paycheck Guarantee Act, which guarantees that Americans will continue to receive a paycheck; to include emergency burial funds for those who have passed due to COVID-19 up to $10,000; to expand Medicare to cover the unemployed instead of subsidizing what she called the unpopular COBRA, a more expensive and less-effective alternative to Medicare expansion.
“We’re going to get through this if we work together and do what we can now,” she said, noting her dismay at not being able to swim at city beaches as per Mayor de Blasio’s order, but her willingness to do what needs to be done to expedite New York’s progress against the virus.
In other business, the board voted to approve a variance application on a College Point property, which is too narrow to legally build the two-story, three-family home the applicant seeks to erect — the 26-11 123 St. property included a 20-foot-wide plot that was divided in half in 1966, making efforts to build the home difficult.
The applicant sought to reverse the 1966 restriction, but board members raised concerns that the change would “alter the character of the neighborhood.” Despite the concern, the board voted to approve the variance with the recommendation that the applicant review the plans with College Point Civic Association leaders to preserve neighborhood values in its architectural plans.