Tag: Travers Park

JHISN Newsletter 06/08/2024

Dear friends,

As the November elections approach, immigration is again becoming fodder for fascist fear-mongering and cynical political jockeying. Five days ago, President Biden announced extraordinary measures to restrict and criminalize asylum seekers at the southern border. Breaking his 2020 campaign promises—as well as international and domestic law—Biden has introduced policies that will effectively shut down asylum refuge and border-crossings for tens of thousands of people. We will bring you more news on this.

In our neighborhood, a beautiful exhibit in Travers Park communicates some of the actual, intimate realities of migration and border transit. Our first article describes the making of “Brought from Home,” a set of documentary photographs of beloved objects and mementos that Latin American immigrants bring with them to the US from their homeplace. The exhibit is on display in the park for just one more week!

Our second article offers an update on the proposed casino project in Flushing, as a billionaire’s dream of profit threatens immigrant neighborhoods and local economies here in Central Queens.  

Newsletter highlights:
  1. Immigrant art exhibit at Travers Park 
  2. Mega-casino project hits major hurdle  


1. “Brought from Home” Exhibit at Travers Park

“As an immigrant myself, and daughter of a man who had a deep connection with his native Peru until his last breath in 2020, I developed Brought from Home as it is a topic that is personal to me and my family….[It] gives viewers an intimate look on immigration and the meaning of home from the perspective of migrants who communicate and demonstrate resilience, as well as hope for the rebirth of a new and better life, while holding on to pieces of what once was.”Angelica Briones

Readers have until June 16th to see documentary photographer Angela Briones’ moving outdoor exhibition in Travers Park. Briones photographs cherished keepsakes that Latin American migrants carry with them—things that “root them to home.” A short text explains the significance of each item for its owner.

Briones began photographing in NYC, exploring what Latin American immigrants in our city treasure as mementos of home—including photos, stuffed animals, coins, and ornaments. Then, with the help of a grant from the Queens Council for the Arts, she traveled to Tijuana, Mexico, to interview migrants at two shelters near the border, and to photograph the keepsakes they carried with them.

Professionally printed on a very large canvas banner, “Brought from Home” is sponsored by Photoville, a prestigious photo festival centered in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Every summer, a “village” of shipping containers is repurposed into a series of art galleries on the waterfront. Photoville also organizes pop-up outdoor photo exhibitions in neighborhoods all over the city. Although there are 85 such satellite shows this year, “Brought from Home” is the only one in Queens.

Briones’ project allows us a privileged window into the personal experiences of migrants. As she puts it, “Although immigrants leave their native countries behind, this rarely means that ‘home’ doesn’t come with them.”

  • Visit “Brought from Home” free exhibit until June 16 in Travers Park, open from 6am – 9pm every day.
  • Learn about and visit Photoville.

2. Ramos Red Lights the Casino Project

As we reported in April, multiple local working-class and immigrant groups oppose billionaire Steve Cohen’s major Metropolitan Park casino development in Flushing. Five of the six powerful politicians on the committee required to approve the project strongly support it. (There is no Asian American representative on the committee even though the land next to Citi Field is bordered by working-class Asian and other immigrant communities.) State Senator Jessica Ramos is the sixth member and would have to introduce legislation to waive the site’s legal status as a park (i.e. ‘alienate’ the parkland) to make the project possible. On Tuesday May 28, Ramos refused to do so. Since this legislative session ended on June 6, she has effectively stopped the $8 billion project for now.

“We want investment and opportunity, we are desperate for green space, and recreation for the whole family. We disagree on the premise that we have to accept a casino in our backyard as the trade-off. I resent the conditions and the generations of neglect that have made many of us so desperate that we would be willing to settle.” —Jessica Ramos

 Even though Phoenix Meadows is an alternative proposal already circulating in the community, on Tuesday Senator Ramos offered her own proposal, without a casino but including a hotel and convention center, athletic fields, a parking facility, a revamped 7 train station, flood protection and other upgrades at the site.

Several local organizations continue to oppose this development project. For example, Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU) is angry that Ramos is suggesting any privatization of the parkland because once the site is no longer designated a public park (alienated), it’s gone forever. QNU strongly prefers the site’s use only as a park or for affordable housing.

In a Facebook post, MinKwon Center for Community Action voiced support for Ramos’ decision and condemned Cohen’s tactics. “Senator Ramos is doing the right thing in opposing the casino, because she is backing the constituents of her district who are, unsurprisingly, 75% opposed to having a casino in their backyard near their kids’ schools.” MinKwon also points out that Cohen’s attempts to get community support have been misleading. Residents signed petitions thinking they were supporting parks, when page 2 showed they were actually signing for Metropolitan Park, casino and all. The Center further commented, “A casino’s profit margin is determined by how much more wealth it extracts than it spends/invests. It is not an engine that generates community wealth, it is a wealth extraction engine.”

Flushing Anti-Displacement Alliance (FADA) continues to oppose Steve Cohen’s project because “it will take $2 billion a year out of our neighborhood economies, leading to the closure of small businesses. It is being planned in conjunction with a wave of adjacent luxury development that will raise rents and property taxes, causing more displacement.” In addition, FADA called for a boycott of the Queens Pride parade on June 2 because of Cohen’s sponsorship of LGBT Network (the parade’s recent sponsor) and his hedge fund’s investments in manufacturing drones that the IDF uses in Israel’s war on Gaza.

Borough President Donovan Richards is perhaps the strongest proponent of Metropolitan Park and its accompanying casino, saying:

“…the families of this community so badly deserve the 25,000 good-paying union jobs, the $163 million community investment fund, the Taste of Queens food hall designed for borough-based vendors, critical support for community-based organizations, rising property values and more that the Metropolitan Park proposal puts forth.”

Lost in the discussion are the three other proposed sites for a casino in the NY area. One of them is Bally’s Bronx, which would be located on what used to be Trump’s golf course in Throggs Neck. It would feature a half-million-square foot gaming hall as well as food and beverage service, a hotel with a spa and meeting space, retail shops, a 2,000-seat event center and a parking garage for up to 4,660 vehicles. Again, parkland would have to be alienated. Neither State Assemblyman Michael Benedetto nor State Senator Nathalia Fernandez have presented legislation to alienate the Throggs Neck parcel.

Clearly, NY boroughs don’t want a casino, but Steve Cohen and Bally’s will continue to fight for their projects. Applications for each proposed casino are not due until 2025.



In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and Twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN. 

JHISN Newsletter 10/30/2021

Dear friends,

We approach the end of the harvest season, with All Hallow’s Eve, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and Samhain each marking – for different cultures – a time of haunting, of remembrance, and of sacred darkness. In Queens County, at least 10,266 people have died from Covid since the start of the pandemic, many of them immigrants, all of them mourned. In this year’s mixed harvest of sorrow and loss, re-openings and return, we look for ways to both honor the dead and cultivate the dark seeds of renewal.

Our last newsletter reported on the 24/7 protest outside City Hall by immigrant taxi workers. Since then, workers have launched a hunger strike to demand relief from the medallion debt that is crushing NYC yellow cab drivers. To support the strikers, please consider a donation to the New York Taxi Workers Alliance. 

In this issue, JHISN is excited to announce the launch of our crowdsourced Timeline of Immigrant Activism in Jackson Heights. You can help us build the story of our local history! We also offer an update on the 34th Avenue Open Street as it moves to become a permanent feature of the neighborhood.

Newsletter highlights:

  1. Interactive Digital Timeline of Immigrant Activism in Jackson Heights
  2. Keeping 34th Avenue an Open Street 

1. Be Part of Our New Timeline of Local Immigrant Activism

JHISN works in solidarity with immigrants and their allies, disseminating information, and encouraging our neighbors to stand with, defend, and empower immigrants. We invite you to participate in our new online project, building a robust history of local immigrant activism. You can be part of this crowdsourced adventure of discovery and sharing which showcases activities that support and celebrate immigrant communities.

Did you know, for example, that Paola Mendoza has made a film, co-written a book, hosted a mourner’s walk, and curated an art installation all of which connect to immigrants in our neighborhoods? That the Latin American Integration Center (LAIC), established in Jackson Heights in 1992, was the precursor to Make the Road NY? Or that the majority of immigrant activist actions have been initiated by women in Queens?

To honor the contributions over the decades by many individuals and immigrant groups in Jackson Heights, Woodside, Corona, and nearby areas, JHISN has created the Timeline of Immigrant Activism. We seeded it with over 120 items: organizational foundings; changes in federal and state laws; marches and protests, including family-friendly events; academic and governmental publications, fiction and non-fiction accounts; and a range of artistic and cultural endeavors. Every one of these efforts is significant by itself. When we look at them collectively we can see the impressive picture of immigrant-led mobilizing and creativity that exists in this distinct part of Queens.

Did you know that, around 2010, the publication director of the Philippine Forum created a hyperlocal online news website for immigrant communities in Queens? It was named Queens7.com after the subway line that served the community.

JHISN is not an authority that knows all the details about these important events and activities. Our group is just a few years old, very young in comparison with groups that have organized here for decades. Many people in our neighborhood–you may be one of them since you subscribe to our newsletter–know a great deal more about these events and our local history. If you notice we have failed to include a march, or did not mention an important cultural event, or missed some important milestones, we encourage you to simply add an item to the timeline yourself.

Did you know that Adhikaar, CHHAYA CDC, and NICE (New Immigrant Community Empowerment) were part of the People’s Walking Tour in 2012, which later became a feature in the curriculum of a 2016 course on urban change at the University of Toronto?

The timeline is a crowdsourced initiative. Anyone can sign up to create an account and add items. There is a slight editorial review process because this topic is both significant and prone to flaring up arguments in public digital spaces. We seek to raise the voices of immigrants and those in solidarity with immigrant struggles by building this public archive. Submissions will be reviewed before they are made publicly available. As a small volunteer group, we ask for your patience, contributions, and collective memory as we build up this resource with you.


  •  Share the link to the timeline jhimmigrantsolidarity.org/timeline with friends, colleagues, and others who can help it grow.
  • Do your own research about local events and efforts and, when you locate something of importance to note or celebrate, search for it in the timeline. If it is missing, create an account and add the information.
  • With every new item you add, you can also name one or more organizations that were involved. If the organization is not already on our list, you can add it. Just be sure to save your event description before you add the names of organizations.

2. DOT Plans for the 34th Avenue Open Street 

Since May 2020, Jackson Heights residents have enjoyed the freedom of the 34th Avenue Open Street. Many organized activities have been held on the Avenue, including immigrant-led programming in the 90s and elsewhere along the new promenade. The Avenue was even named the “gold standard” for an Open Street. There has also been vocal opposition to a permanent Open Street, primarily from car owners as well as those concerned about the safety of pedestrians and children.

Representatives of the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) finally unveiled a design proposal for 34th Avenue at Community Board 3 on October 21. More than 100 virtual participants attended the meeting. The DOT design was partly based on survey responses from more than 2000 local residents, including 90% of respondents who live in Jackson Heights. 

The proposed design aims to reduce car traffic and incorporates significant input from the seven public schools on the Avenue. The design also takes note of how the Avenue has actually been used, and responds to some complaints received over the past year. The DOT slide presentation shows that the Open Street has in fact improved public safety: the total annual number of crashes and injuries along 34th Avenue has dropped since May 2020. The presentation also includes schematic representations of the design and introduces new vocabulary: diverters, chicane, plaza block, and shared space blocks.

The key element of DOT’s proposal is the use of diverters (permanent triangular areas marked by paint, granite blocks, and planters) at all 26 intersections. These are designed to allow cars to turn onto 34th Avenue while preventing drivers from traveling more than one block without having to turn onto a side street. Diverters would replace the temporary metal barricades currently used, which are difficult to move, and which must be installed and removed every day. Here are schematics of a planned diverter and traffic flow around it:

In the DOT plan, there are four plaza blocks (car-free areas marked with paint and planters) on the north side of the Avenue. Two of them would be near PS 368 and IS 230. There would be a green marked bike path 4 feet from the median; the rest of the space would be set aside for pedestrians (see Slides 38 and 39). The plaza expands the pickup/drop-off area for the schools and allows for programming on the Avenue. The chicane (an offset curb extension to slow traffic) will slow any delivery vehicles.  

The area near Travers Park is slated to have a third plaza block at 77-78th streets and a shared space block at 78-79th streets, allowing access to residential buildings and more space for public events (see Slide 40).

The block near PS 212 (82-83rd streets) is planned to be a shared space block (see Slide 41). Since there has been little organized programming on 85-88th streets, they will simply have diverters at the intersections. Because of the apartment fire at 89th street, the final design for the avenue from 89th-92nd streets has been postponed. 

From 93rd street to Junction Boulevard there is a fourth planned plaza block in front of PS 149, and a shared space block from 93rd to Junction Boulevard (see Slide 44). The bus stop on the west side of the street will be moved south.

There was a long Q&A period at the Community Board 3 meeting, with concerns raised about getting more feedback through door-to-door surveys, more traffic studies, sanitation issues, problems with Access-A-Ride, and the speed of motorcycles and mopeds on the Avenue.

DOT is accepting continued feedback on their design proposal through Fall and Winter 2021, with implementation anticipated for Spring 2022. Given the lack of green space or public commons in our primarily immigrant, working-class neighborhood, a permanent Open Street in Jackson Heights would be a huge and welcome transformation.  

  • Review DOT’s slide presentation of the design proposal. Use the online form to send feedback to the DOT/Queens Borough Commissioner by selecting Open Streets as the General Topic. Then select “street or Sidewalk” to talk about a specific location or select “Citywide Concern” to make general feedback.
  • Sign up for the 34th Avenue Open Streets Coalition monthly newsletter


In solidarity and with collective care,

Jackson Heights Immigrant Solidarity Network (JHISN)

Follow @JHSolidarity on Facebook and Twitter and share this newsletter with friends, families, neighbors, networks, and colleagues so they can subscribe and receive news from JHISN.