Woodside, NY— On the cold evening of January 5th underneath the 7 train, Anakbayan New York, the Coalition to Defend Little Manila and members of the Woodside community held a speak out and rally against the construction of a megachurch in the heart of the Filipino Community. The proposed structure of The Universal Church on 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue would stand 70 feet high, taller than any surrounding building. Not only would it be out of context to the community, but it would also break a New York City building code that limits height of building construction.
Community members have expressed serious concern over the construction, saying that it would increase traffic, cause air and noise pollution, and blocked sunlight, which would affect the quality of life, especially for residents who live behind the church.
“As Anakbayan NY members engaged with Woodside residents, specifically those living right behind the megachurch on the expansion project, it was clear that many residents were not even aware of the development proposal. This lack of transparency shows that there clearly was no regard for the residents of Woodside,” said Anakbayan NY in a statement.
“The proposed structure would threaten the livelihood of Filipino businesses and small businesses on Roosevelt Avenue. The loss of small businesses would provide a gateway for giant corporations to take over Roosevelt Avenue. This could lead to increased rents and eventual displacement of working class Woodside residents,” said Tanya Villalobos, Vice Chairperson of Anakbayan NY.
Filipino Youth Protest In Woodside, Queens Against Megachurch Construction in the Community
“There is no legitimate grounds for the displacement, disenfranchisement of working class families of color. [This] development is not growth. This development is not sustainable because it is not led by the community,” said Anakbayan NY Chairperson Danica Pagulayan, emphasizing community control over development. “We are not here to pander towards the government or developers to protect our community. The only people that can protect this community are the people who live here, the people who work here, the people who moved here for their survival,” continued Danica.
Melanie Dulfo, representing the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, spoke about the issues of migrant communities, including displacement, and connected them to the struggles happening in their home countries. “Across our migrant communities… we experience forced migration - when we are forced to leave our countries and look for jobs abroad to survive. Our economies are in constant crisis because we [have] unequal relationships with first world countries such as the U.S. So whether you are from Bangladesh, India, the Philippines, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, your country is experiencing the same thing.” Even when we form our communities here, we are still displaced. We are still forced to leave our communities. It is our duty as migrants to band together and resist displacement.”
Community Board 2, representing the Woodside, Sunnyside, and Long Island City neighborhoods, held its regular meeting on January 5. On its original agenda, CB2 was supposed to vote on the development of the megachurch, however the vote was postponed to a later date. Anakbayan New York mobilized its members alongside the Woodside community emphasized that it is the community, who will decide what will happen to the Woodside community.
Anakbayan-New York is a community-based organization that fights for the rights and welfare of the Filipino youth and community in New York City. We aim to build unity among Filipino youth -- immigrant, US-born/raised, student, working, LGBTQI, women, artists, etc -- striving for genuine freedom and democracy and for the promotion of cultural awareness and the advancement of rights, welfare, and social justice.