On June 4, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) ruled four to one in favor of the development.
Advocates from Queens Neighborhoods United (QNU) had challenged the legality of the Target, which they say does not comply with the zoning code for the lot.
QNU said it will appeal the decision to the New York State Supreme Court.
“Just like we kept Amazon out of Queens, we will not let Target take over our beloved community,” the group said in a statement shared on its Facebook page. “The fight continues.”
Paula Segal, senior attorney with the Community Development Project, which represented the advocates, said the BSA “got it wrong.”
“The city cannot allow developers to bury big box stores underground to skirt the laws and regulations that protect communities in residential zoning districts from unchecked and harmful development,” she said in a statement.
QNU members protested the BSA’s decision at the public hearing last week. According to videos the group shared online, police officers escorted members out of the building.
Local elected officials also expressed their opposition to the BSA’s ruling. State Senator Jessica Ramos said in a statement that she was “incredibly disappointed and outraged” by the decision.
“This decision sets a dangerous precedent, paving the way for unregulated variety stores to be built in residential neighborhoods throughout the city,” she said, “putting the safety of our communities and infrastructure at risk.”
Ramos argued that the development will impact ambulance response times at nearby Elmhurst Hospital.
“Traffic that will come with Target as a tenant will exacerbate our healthcare access,” she added. “Space in our growing community is limited.”
Councilman Francisco Moya said in a statement that the residents and activists who testified against the project “articulated a sound argument.”
Moya, who chairs the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, said he will look to update the zoning text to protect communities against the loophole.
“It’s a mistake allowing organizations to use cellar space as a loophole to skirt zoning rules,” he said. “Any interpretation of the zoning text that permits this loophole is ignoring the spirit of the regulation.”