Sue Jeong Ka / Zaid A Islam

BluMarble is a project by interdisciplinary artist Sue Jeong Ka, in collaboration with local residents of Jamaica, Queens. The project explores housing issues and real estate development, focusing on how they affect related communities. The project includes videos, poster signs, and panel talks.

The City’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) provides housing for people who have lost their home. The homeless families are put in shelters until they can be placed in a home. When building permanent homeless shelters, the department needs to consult with local politicians and community boards.

Jamaica has the highest number of homeless shelters in the borough of Queens. Community Board 12, which covers Jamaica, passed a resolution in December 2014 that they do not want any more shelters in their area. The board is empathetic with homelessness, but would like other areas in Queens to share the responsibility of providing shelter.

In the meantime, many hotels have been built in Jamaica, Queens, expecting business from an influx of tourists as a result of the AirTrain to JFK. These hotel chains do not get as much business as expected. DHS rents rooms at these hotels to provide temporary shelter for homeless people. Hotels get some business, and DHS does not have to deal with the Community Board as they are only “temporary” shelters.

BluMarble is a collaboration with Harry Sukhedo, a local resident of the Jamaica neighborhood in Queens who has lived on Waltham Street for 25 years. He is organizing in his community to stop the construction of an upcoming hotel across the street from where he lives. He does not want a commercial hotel near his property – his home – especially if it turns out to be a homeless shelter, temporary or otherwise.

Ka’s art revolves around identity, and how space affects individual and community identity. Her other works include an ongoing project, ID Shop, that attempts to identify alternative approaches for undocumented youth to meet application requirements for City identification cards. She looks at public systems and human behaviors and suggests alternatives with which individuals can operate within systems. In a funny way, she points out how an individual or body can remain within boundaries without adhering to them.

Zaid A Islam