Remove the Target Off Our Backs

A Reckless Proposal for Rezoning to Allow a 13 Story Luxury Condo Building and Target Shopping Center Will Endanger our Elmhurst-Jackson Heights-Corona Community

by Catalina Cruz

The proposed development will endanger lives by obstructing ambulance access to Elmhurst Hospital.

Growing communities are healthy communities — and new developments are often a part of that growth. But they need to be smart. They need to be responsible. The proposed development for 40–31 82nd Street by Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group is reckless and unsafe. Seeking a zoning change to bring a massive 13-story, 120-unit building into the heart of the Elmhurst-Jackson Heights-Corona community, demonstrates a lack of understanding of our neighborhoods, its needs, and what makes them special.

In its current form, this proposal is fatally flawed. Anchoring the construction project will be a Target shopping center on the bottom floors that will not only have a direct and negative impact on our small businesses, but also become a magnet for traffic congestion and further jeopardize pedestrian safety.

The proposed development, 13 stories in heights, is dramatically larger than any residential building in the surrounding communities. It is more than twice the height of any existing residential building in Elmhurst or Jackson Heights.

Most urgently, the placement of a large shopping center at this site will create major traffic flow obstacles for ambulances needing access to Elmhurst Hospital, which is located only one block away. Emergency service vehicles are already frequently stuck in traffic along Baxter Ave, and Roosevelt Avenue. The development’s proposed 128-car parking garage, car elevators and truck loading docks, will only exacerbate an already bustling artery of our community that is in close proximity to one of the busiest hospitals in the city, if not the country. Traffic jams on these small local streets will greatly delay response times for EMS and jeopardize lives. Building the largest residential building in the community, with a corporate big box store at its base, at this site is not just poor planning — it is dangerous.

Ambulance leaving Elmhurst Hospital rushing to an emergency. Development site is on the left of ambulance.
A 128 parking garage, utilizing car elevators, will induce massive traffic congestion and hamper ambulance access to emergencies in Corona, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights endangering our community.

While anchor tenants have a role in the success of a commercial corridor, it cannot come at the expense of driving small businesses away, diminishing the quality of life for local residents, and endangering lives. With Target announced as the main tenant, it remains unclear why the developer even needs a rezoning.

The real estate developers need the community’s permission for a rezoning in order to build this mega-development in our community. The current law allows them to build up to nine stories as-of-right. However, there is no justification for this development to be twice the size of the surrounding buildings and architecturally out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. Why should our community give this development the ability to build higher than ever before without providing a clear benefit to our community? When the community gives a developer permission to build higher or larger — they are essentially giving the developer a subsidy. Why should we subsidize this developer in leasing a Target shopping center, and getting 50% additional square footage than the current law allows — yet all the community gets is traffic chaos, a proven small business killer, and life-threatening ambulance delays.

We all want our neighborhoods to grow and thrive. But developers have to be good neighbors. We need them to be partners. Let’s recognize that obtaining special permission for this development to avoid current zoning regulations requires a significant community benefit, and at minimum, more effort put into mitigating the negative impact this proposal exposes our community to. Neighborhood buy-in should be just as important to Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group as their bottom line. We urge them to go back to the drawing board and produce a smarter and more responsible proposal that our communities can embrace.

A coalition of Elmhurst-Jackson Heights residents is urging Community Board 4 to vote ‘No’ on this proposal.

For more information: www.CruzForNewYork.com

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