Is development forcing out residents?

Some Queens residents say yes
February 11, 2008 8:26:19 PM PST
In our attempt to maximize space and build high-rise apartments stacked on top of businesses, are we knocking down history? Are we destroying people's memories and lives? Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Leid has the story from the Dutch Hills section of Queens, where some people think that price is too high.

"I met him when I was 19 years old on Coney Island on the beach," Yolanda Schettino said.

Yolanda has been married to her husband, Anthony, for 53 years. They spent 39 of those in the Dutch Kills neighborhood of Queens. They raised their two kids there, saw them get married and have their kids.

"Life has been good to us, up til now anyhow," Anthony said.

This Long Island City neighborhood is a mix of part residential, part industrial. The Schettino's are zoned commercial.

And one by one, they've seen homes sold and turned into hotels.

The Schettino's say it's been an absolute nightmare ever since the developer broke ground right next door to their home. They're worried another hotel will end up right next door to them.

Carolina: "How do you feel about what's going on next door?"
Anthony: "We feel terrible about it. It's disgusting. It never occurred to me that such a thing would happen to us."

Homeowners walked us through their neighborhood, furious at what they call monstrosities. They hoped for tree-lined streets, not nine-story hotels.

"This empty spot here we understand will be a 12-story Marriott, which is unusual for this neighborhood," resident Gerry Walsh. "If you look anywhere, you have three- and four-story buildings at the most."

"They're coming in and they're building these hotels and they're blocking our views and there is no parking," resident Mary Lou Vicchiullo.

Neighbors say the city isn't helping.

But Councilman Eric Goia says he's doing everything he can. He says the problem is that the planning commission is trying to re-zone what's left to residential.

In turn, he says, that's why neighbors are seeing such a spike.

"What you have now, I think, are a lot of hotels trying to be the clock and trying to take advantage of the loophole while they still can," he said.

And as bleak as the legal loophole looks, the Schettino's and their neighbors say they'll keep fighting.

"We're trying anyway," Yolanda said.

"We're not winning," Anthony added.