Target expansion plans face community resistance in Queens

May 10, 2019

Image via Google Earth.

A planned expansion by Target into several Queens neighborhoods has run afoul of politicians and community groups. The chain store hopes to open new stores in Astoria and Elmhurst by 2022, but activists in the borough have been fighting to stop the new additions, objecting to the fact that they’ll replace mom-and-pop stores and concerned about the effects of gentrification in their neighborhoods. Another concern is that Target’s non-union workforce will replace union jobs, The City reports.

In one particular bustling corner of Queens at 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard, the arrival of Target would replace five active businesses–including a Key Food supermarket–and some vacant storefronts. The busy intersection is already home to several banks, a CVS and a Starbucks.

Last March, the owner of the property in question signed a memorandum with Target for a 15-year lease on a 47,000-square-foot, three-floor construction project, and there is an application for a demolition permit on file with the Department of Buildings. The new development includes 45,000 square feet of retail space in addition to Target.

Many employees of the Key Food store are members of UFCW Local 1500. Larry Mandell, the store’s franchise owner, says he’d like to stay in the space, but his lease expires in October 2020, and he hasn’t heard back from the landlord regarding renewal negotiations.

And Target’s lease memo, according to property records, prevents drug stores, supermarkets or convenience stores large than 1,000 square feet from occupying the adjoining space to avoid competition, though Michael Hirschhorn, president of Jenel Management Corp., who spoke on the landlord’s behalf, said “I have the ability and authority from Target to pursue a supermarket provided that the supermarket doesn’t compete with them directly.”

Astoria Councilmember Costas Constantinides has organized a rally in protest of Target’s expansion plans, calling the store’s impending arrival a “classic big development move.” He said of the Key Food and neighboring small businesses, “The greed of this developer and Target to tear all of it down…that doesn’t play well with labor and with communities.”

Another Target store headed for Elmhurst is meeting similar resistance. Community activists there have been fighting development on 82nd street that includes a spot for the chain store, which currently operates 78 stores in the greater New York area, employing over 17,000 workers.

Developers have already scrapped plans for a 13-story mixed-use building due to community opposition, and are planning to build a two-story commercial complex instead, with Target occupying the ground floor and cellar. Opponents say the planned development exceeds the 10,000 square allowed by zoning rules for local stores.

State Sen. Jessica Ramos and other opponents comprising the Queens Neighborhoods United organization went to the state Supreme Court in an attempt to halt construction on the Elmhurst project, but in January a judge gave the green light for the project to move forward.

The next step for the opposition will be a May 21 city Board of Standards and Appeals hearing, where they hope to stop the development on zoning violation grounds. Patricia Chou, an organizer with Queens Neighborhoods United, said, “These corporations — Amazon, Target, Walmart, whoever — treat our neighborhoods like corporate playgrounds, and think our people are just open wallets.”

About 15 New York City Target locations are smaller-format mini-stores of about 40,000 square feet, a third of the size of the store’s regular locations. The planned Elmhurst and Astoria locations would be similar mini-stores.

[Via The City]


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