BY ALEJANDRA O’CONNELL-DOMENECH
At a rally on Thursday Jan. 3 in Long Island City’s
Gantry State Park, New York City Comptroller Scott
Stringer announced that he would immediately start
work on preventing residents at the Citylights co-op
from losing their homes.
A fixture of the Long Island City skyline long before
the development boom, the 42-story co-op loomed
behind its residents, circled around the Comptroller
while he spoke to the media. His plan: get the New
York City Department of Finance and the Empire State
Development Corporation together to agree on what
to do about the building’s now expired abatement and
the $500,000 annual ground lease tenants must pay.
This was not the first time such a gathering had
occurred. Residents rallied on multiple occasions in
2018 to bring awareness to the 20-year tax abate-ment
that was phased out on July 1, resulting $5.8
million tax bill and a property value increase by
“We love it when people come here. We love it
when new immigrants and new industry from all over
the world want to be in our city,” Stringer said to the
media as a crowd of Citylights residents waved signs
behind him. “But there is a covenant that must be kept.”
That covenant to which Stringer referred is Mayor
Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing plan.
Last year, the city of New York spent $1.582 billion
on financing 32,116 affordable homes in order to make
a dent in the city’s affordable housing crisis, according
to the New York City Housing website. According to
Stringer, the fact that long-time affordable housing
residents — Citylights is Queens largest affordable
co-op — are struggling to pay their mortgages goes
against the spirit of his plan.
“People who build our community, they must stay and
they must be celebrated for building our city,”said Stringer.
22 JANUARY 2019 I LIC COURIER I www.qns.com
Photos by Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
The irony of the situation is not lost on Citylights
Shelley Cohen, a tenant of Citylights for 21 years,
said that when she first moved to the co-op it was
surrounded by warehouses and trash. At the time, the
neighborhood didn’t have many supermarkets, major
drug store chains or restaurants. It was a difficult place
to live, according to Cohen.
For two decades tenants of Citylights have suf-fered
through noisy construction, poor building con-ditions
and even soil remediation. But they stuck
it out. Now, Cohen and her fellow “pioneers” feel
especially entitled to stay in the neighborhood they
took a chance on.
“Now, the city and the state are extending handouts
to big companies, like Amazon, while my middle-class
neighbors and I suffer,” said Cohen. “If the city and the
state can work together to lure Amazon, they can find
a way to relieve of us our ground lease.”
Stringer stands with Citylights
co-op residents in Long Island City