8 THE QUEENS COURIER • JULY 19, 2018 FOR BREAKING NEWS VISIT WWW.QNS.COM
LIC co-op residents urge mayor to ‘Save Citylights’
BY JENNA BAGCAL
Citylights residents and elected offi cials
rallied in front of City Hall on July 17 to
protest the rising cost of their Long Island
Residents of Queens’ largest aff ordable
housing co-op demanded that Mayor Bill
de Blasio cancel a “massive, unfair tax bill
levied against the complex on July 1.”
“When I moved to Citylights over 20
years ago, it was because the government
promised it would stay aff ordable. Now,
we are at risk of losing the homes — and
community — we helped create. Please
Mayor de Blasio, save Citylights,” said
resident Brett Crandle.
A deal made between the city and the
state resulted in the Citylights residents
being saddled with a $5.8 million tax bill,
a heavy debt that co-op members claim is
impossible to be paid in full. Many of the
people who live in the building are middle
Mayor overrides CB 2, approves Sunnyside protected bike lanes
BY JENNA BAGCAL
Mayor Bill de Blasio approved on July
12 highly debated plans for protected bike
lanes in Sunnyside, overruling the local
community board’s vote against them.
Protected bike lanes on Skillman and
43rd Avenues have been the source of
heated debates between those for and
against the project.
Th ose for it would oft en cite Gelacio
Reyes, a cyclist who was killed by a drunk
driver in April 2017. Th ose against it
have said that bike lanes would mean loss
of parking, increased gentrifi cation and
strain on small businesses.
During the Board 2 meeting in June,
the board voted 27-8 in opposition of the
protected bike lanes. Community Board 2
has not yet responded to QNS’ calls concerning
the mayor’s decision.
“Nearly 300 people have been injured
along Skillman and 43rd Avenues in
Queens. 2 lives have been lost. @NYC_
DOT has listened to voices across the
community. I’ve instructed them to
move forward with pedestrian safety
and protected bike lanes that will save
lives. #VisionZero,” wrote the mayor on
Dozens of bike lane supporters on
Twitter applauded the mayor’s decision.
“Th anks 1,000 times! Having ridden 30
yrs in town, the fear of reckless drivers
has increased with the traffi c. As a working
cyclist and wife, mother and friend
of cyclists- every day brings fear one will
get injured. Th is is life saving & will help
reduce reckless driving too,” wrote Make
“Th ank you!!! Our community needs
this! All of #BikeQNS will be so much safer
with a protected link from #FixQueensBlvd
to the #QueensboroBridge! I’m looking
forward to smooth rides, free from double
parked cars and aggressive drivers!
Th ank you for standing up for our lives!”
said Laura Shepard.
But others on social media were not as
supportive of protected bike lanes coming
“NO! 1.) Businesses will close 2.) Th ere
already ARE bike lanes there! 3.) LIC condos
and existing cars have made parking
impossible to fi nd. Th is is a disaster. Th e
sunnyside community is worse off now,”
Mike Pepi wrote.
“1) I’m pretty sure nobody has been
killed on skillman Avenue, yes, there was
a fatal accident on 43rd Avenue so I’m
not sure why you were obsessed with
Skillman Ave and not where it happened.
2) 90% of the community were vocally
against it,” said Sean Donohue.
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer who
was previously not in favor of the protected
bike lanes, said that he supported the
mayor’s decision in a statement.
“I’ve always said that I support bike
lanes and that I support protected bike
lanes,” Van Bramer said. “Th ere is no
question in my mind that this proposal
will make 43rd Avenue and Skillman
Avenue safer. And while there remain
concerns among business owners and
some residents about the plan, I respect
the mayor’s decision.”
Th e councilman added that he would
work with the mayor and DOT to ensure
that the plan was implemented with “the
least amount of inconvenience possible”
and would also monitor its eff ect on small
businesses in the area.
Photo via Flickr/Tiocfaidh ár lá 1916
class residents, a number of whom are
at or nearing retirement age.
During the protest, the residents
brought a copy of the tax bill to City Hall,
with the words “return to sender” written
In addition, the Citylights inhabitants
have been faced with mortgage costs,
repair bills and annual rent to the state
in the form of a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes
(PILOT) agreement. Residents also
pointed out that they pay more in maintenance
costs per month than those who
live in the nearby luxury high rises pay
“With each day that passes, I – and
many other middle-class families like
mine – worry about losing our homes.
Our government must keep its promise
and keep our homes aff ordable,” said resident
Shelley Cohen, who mentioned that
her daughter was the fi rst baby born in
the building over 20 years ago.
Following pressure from Citylights residents
and elected offi cials, a spokesperson
for Empire State Development
(ESD), which was responsible for building
Citylights, said they were ready to
work with the city to come up with a
workable solution for those living in the
ESD added that they were “waiting on
the city’s mandated written consent to
According to residents, the mayor has
said he believes aff ordable housing is a
priority, yet they have “sent multiple letters
to Mayor de Blasio” asking that he
authorize re-negotiation of the PILOT
agreement to no avail.
Joining the longtime co-op residents
at Tuesday’s rally were elected
offi cials including Councilman Jimmy
Van Bramer, Senator Michael Gianaris
and representatives from the offi ces of
Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan and
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
All four offi cials have called on the
mayor to take action to help the residents
keep their homes.
“Th e city needs to step up, too,”
Gianaris said. “Th ese are the people who
have made the community what it is;
these are the people who have made it so
desirable to come here. Th e last thing we
want to do is drive them out of the neighborhood
because it became too expensive.
Th ey came here because it was supposed
to be aff ordable and it’s supposed to continue
to be aff ordable.”
Photo by Jenna Bagcal/THE COURIER
Citylights residents rally in front of City Hall on July 17.
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