Immigrant Communities and Struggles for Social Justice in Queens, NY

Authors: James DeFilippis*, Rutgers University
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Theory
Keywords: immigrant communities, social justice, urban change, social movements
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Council Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper will use the context of Queens, NY to discuss the ways in which questions of social justice manifest themselves in an immigrant society. In particular, it will focus on the most immigrant-populated section of the borough – the 7-train corridor (so named because of the subway line that is its primary artery). A set of neighborhood conflicts and developments over the last decade have made this corridor one of the central spaces for community politics in New York City. The issues to be explored here include: the landmarking of Sunnyside Gardens and its subsequent intensive gentrification; the conflict over the proposed Business Improvement District expansion in Jackson Heights; control over the development of Corona Plaza; housing over-crowding in Corona; the displacement of the autobody industry from Willets Point; the efforts by the city government to sell off/privatize much of Flushing-Corona Park; and the rapid hyper-development in downtown Flushing.
The conflicts along this corridor raise questions of both distributive and procedural justice. They are, in short, fights over justice in capitalist urban space. These fights, however are taking place in a multi-national, ethnic and racial context. That diversity does not overshadow or somehow supersede the fights between community and capital that inhere in capitalism. Nor should we expect it to. Capitalism is, and has always been (as per Cedric Robinson) racialized, and the efforts for social justice in Queens emphasize this point.

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