JANUARY 2003

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High Housing Costs Will Drive Working Class Hispanics Out of NYC
From Hoy
December 16, 2002

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in his speech last Tuesday at the Sheraton hotel [December 10th], promised to build 65,000 housing units in the next five years, of which 27,000 would be completely new. The numbers don't add up. The number of homeless people and poor people facing housing problems will only be reduced if the mayor's plans are put into practice. The housing problem has dragged on for decades and its possible explosion could provoke the emigration of a large part of the working population from the city, degrading the quality of urban life here.

If the process continues into the future, soon we will be able to see a plutocratic New York, whose neighborhoods are inhabited only by the upper-middle-classes and the rich. Neither professionals nor the working class will be able to face the high costs of rents, which have already begun to be prohibitive.

There is no doubt that, if the working class is forced to leave the city, the process will reproduce itself little by little in the farther regions of the metropolitan area, in places like northern New Jersey. This will happen in such a manner that the salaries of the few members of the working class who remain in the city will be so high that richer people will begin to leave the city to find cheaper vital services. This has been the cause of the downfall of many cities, whose cost of living has become so elevated that people leave the city for the further suburbs, bringing down the center city and creating new centers of development in the periphery where people can live and work.

One of the reasons for this migration away from cities is the lack of adequate housing. A clear example is that many families have bought houses in southern New Jersey while continuing to work in New York. They face long commutes in order to enjoy the lower costs and better conditions of living that they find in areas as far as sixty miles away from the city. More and more Hispanic New Yorkers are moving from the city to the south, in some cases as far away as the Carolinas or Virginia, in search of better living and housing conditions.

If the deterioration of the city is not dealt with immediately with political courage, the city will continue along the path of impoverishment. For instance, without workers, the hotel industry -- one of the most important in the city -- could collapse. Spending up to 60 percent of one's earnings on rent makes the high salaries that one can find here irrelevant. If one can live on much less and rent a similar house in Pennsylvania, Connecticut or another place where there is work, people will move there. The process is already in motion. Hopefully the mayor and those who work with him realize this. There are many things to reform in order to halt the entropy that threatens New York. The mayor's announcement should be only the beginning.

Translated from Spanish by Jonathan Charnay

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