La Jornada, a food pantry that emerged in the early days of the pandemic to serve thousands of Queens residents, is being kicked out of its central location in Flushing.

City officials said the organization’s hub operations, located in the Bland Houses complex of the New York City Housing Authority, had far outgrown the space it had originally licensed.

“La Jornada has agreed to vacate the space by the end of July and, with the help of the Mayor and elected officials, they are looking for temporary and permanent locations that will be appropriate for the work that they do,” said Rochel Leah​ Goldblatt, a spokesperson for NYCHA, in a statement.

Pedro Rodriguez, the executive director of La Jornada, was circumspect about the displacement from Bland Houses, telling Gothamist he remained in discussions with the Adams administration and other officials. The organization serves close to 11,000 families from Astoria to Bayside, he said, and he is concerned about their nutritional needs at a time when rising prices and cuts in federal funding are making it increasingly difficult for New Yorkers to be fed.

Seniors were home with nothing, they couldn’t go out and get food, people were hysterical about food. There was no food anywhere. Then they used to call 311, and 311 said, ‘Send them to La Jornada.’
Pedro Rodriguez, executive director of La Jornada

When La Jornada first opened, in April of 2020, it was overwhelmed by the public response.

“Seniors were home with nothing, they couldn’t go out and get food, people were hysterical about food,” said Rodriguez. “There was no food anywhere. Then they used to call 311, and 311 said, ‘Send them to La Jornada.’”

The line on opening day, he said, was 28 blocks long. An estimated 10,000 New Yorkers had shown up outside the door of the organization, but there was only enough food to serve 2,000, resulting in thousands of people being turned away.

In a December 2021 report on the economy of Flushing, state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli noted that “the pandemic hit Queens harder than any borough and devastated the greater Flushing economy.”

“By the end of the second quarter (June 2020) nearly one-in-four private sector jobs were gone,” read the report. “This was on par with Queens overall, which had the highest rate of job loss (25.2%) in NYC.

Today, La Jornada has 12 food pantries scattered across the borough of Queens.

“But the problem is, Bland Houses is the hub,” he explained. “All the food comes to Bland Houses, gets organized, gets cleaned, gets chosen, gets thrown away, And then it gets sent down to Jackson Heights on Monday, Corona on Tuesday, to the Queens museum on Wednesday, Elmhurst Hospital on Thursday.”

In addition to outgrowing its hub space, officials in City Hall said La Jornada had failed to address safety and health issues, but did not elaborate on the nature of those problems.