Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/department-of-housing-preservation-and-development 2017-12-11T01:57:59+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com City Council Tenant Advocate Bill Met with Resistance 2017-04-20T22:04:05+00:00 2017-04-20T22:04:05+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6884:city-council-tenant-advocate-bill-met-with-resistance Samar Khurshid <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32212877203_635c2c312c_k.jpg" alt="Councilmember Helen Rosenthal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings on Wednesday heard more than a dozen bills that would enhance tenant protections and combat abuses by landlords. Among those proposals was one that would create a new ombudsman within the Department of Buildings whose responsibility would be to prioritize the welfare of tenants when property owners and builders apply for construction permits.</p> <p>The bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2984646&amp;GUID=D8E10F34-2500-481A-B58C-28E3BA5669B1&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1523</a>, was introduced by Council Member Helen Rosenthal last month and heard for the first time Wednesday. It would create an Office of the Tenant Advocate, charged with approving and monitoring tenant protection and site safety plans submitted to the Department of Buildings for construction work on occupied multiple dwellings.</p> <p>The OTA would receive and redress complaints from tenants and would be required to publish quarterly reports on its work, including data on the number of complaints received, time taken to respond to complaints, and the number of tenant protection and site safety plans reviewed.</p> <p>Rosenthal, a Democrat from the Upper West Side, said the OTA is a crucial tool to fight tenant harassment by landlords, particularly those who may use legally approved construction work to continually hassle and drive out rent-stabilized tenants. “Dealing with building owners who operate unscrupulously can be a Sisyphean task,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview, “and having more eyes on the ball can only help. Having an office or deputy commissioner on equal footing with other deputy commissioners at DOB will allow tenant voices to be heard.”</p> <p>But her bill received push back from the de Blasio administration as well as the real estate industry, both of which argue that the OTA would be redundant. “While we generally support the bills discussed at yesterday’s hearing, we’re concerned that this particular legislation would duplicate work the Department already performs,” said Joseph Soldevere, a DOB spokesperson, in an email.</p> <p>Soldevere said the department’s experts thoroughly examine tenant-protection and site-safety plans and, along with other agencies like Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), have a “robust system” for responding to tenant complaints. DOB also partners with HPD and law enforcement agencies, Soldevere added, in a joint city-state Tenant Harassment Task Force which has conducted more than 2,000 inspections since 2016.</p> <p>Council Member Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, is a co-sponsor on Rosenthal’s bill. He criticized the DOB’s often-delayed response time to complaints, calling them “totally ineffective” and insisting that the raft of proposals, dubbed the “Stand For Tenant Safety” <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=539361&amp;GUID=5A278FCF-8C83-43AC-86E5-EF3C3998D566&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">package</a>, was essential. “It’s important that agencies coordinate their actions in working with tenants,” he said.</p> <p>The Real Estate Board of New York, the trade association that represents more than 16,000 members, including developers, property owners, managers and brokers, filed a <a href="https://www.rebny.com/content/rebny/en/newsroom/testimony/2017_Testimony/Legislative_Memorandum_Tenant_Harassment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">legislative memo</a> with the City Council committee on Wednesday, stating its outright opposition to the OTA bill and generally to the larger package of proposals.</p> <p>“The creation of the Office of the Tenant Advocate within DoB might be a worthy endeavor,” the REBNY memo reads, “if the Office is devoted not only to protecting the interests of the tenant during construction, but also to assisting tenants with their responsibilities during such times.” It goes on to argue, similar to the administration’s stance on the bill, that other units within the DOB already cover the office’s proposed duties. They also insist that the bill should drop any references to site safety plans which are “technical documents requiring high-level expertise and developed to safeguard the general public and workers on-site, not specifically tenants.”</p> <p>For Rosenthal, those concerns aren’t unfounded and she said she’s not looking to duplicate efforts already underway. Rather, she wants to streamline existing resources and prioritize the city’s response to tenant concerns. “Simply organize it in a fashion that would be more supportive for people going through construction, where construction is used for harassment,” she said. “What I’m trying to do is level the playing field within the DOB so that a tenant’s voice is heard as well as a building owners.”</p> <p>The broader package of bills addresses a number of issues, with proposals including oversight of contractors that work without a permit; added requirements for information in tenant protection plans; a safe construction bill of rights for tenants; a rebuttable presumption of harassment for certain landlord actions; increased civil penalties for harassment and enhanced definitions of acts that constitute harassment; among others.</p> <p>The package is also keeping in line with the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s increased focus on tenant protections, including the recently agreed upon “Right to Counsel,” which provides free legal representation or advice to tenants facing eviction. The mayor has pointedly cited his anti-eviction and pro-tenant policies as a significant part of his overall agenda to combat the city’s record levels of homelessness and affordable housing crisis.</p> <p>Kerri White, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a tenant advocacy group, said the Office of Tenant Advocate would be a step towards addressing systemic issues that tenants face. “DOB still perceives each problem as its own island and that’s not the reality,” she said, emphasizing that the city needs a comprehensive approach that recognizes the larger context of tenant issues. She said HPD has in part embraced this need, after years of advocacy, but DOB lags behind. “Right now there’s no centralized person you can talk to,” she said. “You call 311 and put in complaints but those are not always effective.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/32212877203_635c2c312c_k.jpg" alt="Councilmember Helen Rosenthal" width="600" height="400" /></p> <p>Council Member Helen Rosenthal (photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)</p> <hr /> <p>The City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings on Wednesday heard more than a dozen bills that would enhance tenant protections and combat abuses by landlords. Among those proposals was one that would create a new ombudsman within the Department of Buildings whose responsibility would be to prioritize the welfare of tenants when property owners and builders apply for construction permits.</p> <p>The bill, <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=2984646&amp;GUID=D8E10F34-2500-481A-B58C-28E3BA5669B1&amp;Options=&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Intro. 1523</a>, was introduced by Council Member Helen Rosenthal last month and heard for the first time Wednesday. It would create an Office of the Tenant Advocate, charged with approving and monitoring tenant protection and site safety plans submitted to the Department of Buildings for construction work on occupied multiple dwellings.</p> <p>The OTA would receive and redress complaints from tenants and would be required to publish quarterly reports on its work, including data on the number of complaints received, time taken to respond to complaints, and the number of tenant protection and site safety plans reviewed.</p> <p>Rosenthal, a Democrat from the Upper West Side, said the OTA is a crucial tool to fight tenant harassment by landlords, particularly those who may use legally approved construction work to continually hassle and drive out rent-stabilized tenants. “Dealing with building owners who operate unscrupulously can be a Sisyphean task,” Rosenthal said in a phone interview, “and having more eyes on the ball can only help. Having an office or deputy commissioner on equal footing with other deputy commissioners at DOB will allow tenant voices to be heard.”</p> <p>But her bill received push back from the de Blasio administration as well as the real estate industry, both of which argue that the OTA would be redundant. “While we generally support the bills discussed at yesterday’s hearing, we’re concerned that this particular legislation would duplicate work the Department already performs,” said Joseph Soldevere, a DOB spokesperson, in an email.</p> <p>Soldevere said the department’s experts thoroughly examine tenant-protection and site-safety plans and, along with other agencies like Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), have a “robust system” for responding to tenant complaints. DOB also partners with HPD and law enforcement agencies, Soldevere added, in a joint city-state Tenant Harassment Task Force which has conducted more than 2,000 inspections since 2016.</p> <p>Council Member Stephen Levin, a Brooklyn Democrat, is a co-sponsor on Rosenthal’s bill. He criticized the DOB’s often-delayed response time to complaints, calling them “totally ineffective” and insisting that the raft of proposals, dubbed the “Stand For Tenant Safety” <a href="http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=539361&amp;GUID=5A278FCF-8C83-43AC-86E5-EF3C3998D566&amp;Options=info&amp;Search=" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">package</a>, was essential. “It’s important that agencies coordinate their actions in working with tenants,” he said.</p> <p>The Real Estate Board of New York, the trade association that represents more than 16,000 members, including developers, property owners, managers and brokers, filed a <a href="https://www.rebny.com/content/rebny/en/newsroom/testimony/2017_Testimony/Legislative_Memorandum_Tenant_Harassment.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">legislative memo</a> with the City Council committee on Wednesday, stating its outright opposition to the OTA bill and generally to the larger package of proposals.</p> <p>“The creation of the Office of the Tenant Advocate within DoB might be a worthy endeavor,” the REBNY memo reads, “if the Office is devoted not only to protecting the interests of the tenant during construction, but also to assisting tenants with their responsibilities during such times.” It goes on to argue, similar to the administration’s stance on the bill, that other units within the DOB already cover the office’s proposed duties. They also insist that the bill should drop any references to site safety plans which are “technical documents requiring high-level expertise and developed to safeguard the general public and workers on-site, not specifically tenants.”</p> <p>For Rosenthal, those concerns aren’t unfounded and she said she’s not looking to duplicate efforts already underway. Rather, she wants to streamline existing resources and prioritize the city’s response to tenant concerns. “Simply organize it in a fashion that would be more supportive for people going through construction, where construction is used for harassment,” she said. “What I’m trying to do is level the playing field within the DOB so that a tenant’s voice is heard as well as a building owners.”</p> <p>The broader package of bills addresses a number of issues, with proposals including oversight of contractors that work without a permit; added requirements for information in tenant protection plans; a safe construction bill of rights for tenants; a rebuttable presumption of harassment for certain landlord actions; increased civil penalties for harassment and enhanced definitions of acts that constitute harassment; among others.</p> <p>The package is also keeping in line with the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s increased focus on tenant protections, including the recently agreed upon “Right to Counsel,” which provides free legal representation or advice to tenants facing eviction. The mayor has pointedly cited his anti-eviction and pro-tenant policies as a significant part of his overall agenda to combat the city’s record levels of homelessness and affordable housing crisis.</p> <p>Kerri White, director of organizing and policy at the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a tenant advocacy group, said the Office of Tenant Advocate would be a step towards addressing systemic issues that tenants face. “DOB still perceives each problem as its own island and that’s not the reality,” she said, emphasizing that the city needs a comprehensive approach that recognizes the larger context of tenant issues. She said HPD has in part embraced this need, after years of advocacy, but DOB lags behind. “Right now there’s no centralized person you can talk to,” she said. “You call 311 and put in complaints but those are not always effective.”</p> <p>

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by Samar Khurshid, City government reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p>
Flushing’s Affordable Housing at Risk 2016-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 2016-05-01T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6311:flushing-s-affordable-housing-at-risk Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Flushing-Sanford-Ave.jpg" alt="Flushing town hall" height="424" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, the New York City Council approved the contested <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">East New York rezoning</a> - the first of 15 proposed neighborhood rezonings through which Mayor de Blasio intends to advance his goal of preserving 120,000 units of affordable housing and producing 80,000 new units at below-market rents. Described by some as a rezoning taking place “<a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/09/plan-to-rezone-flushing-west-flies-under-the-radar/" target="_blank">under the radar</a>,” the Department of City Planning (DCP) has been conducting a planning study and holding numerous community town halls on a ten-block area of Queens dubbed “Flushing West.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This proposed rezoning would have a transformative impact on Flushing, a densely populated, pan-Asian immigrant neighborhood with a sizable Latino population and a small but historic African-American community. Although DCP recently postponed the April certification of the Flushing West rezoning plan (which would have initiated the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), the plan continues to move forward and remains a key piece of the mayor’s controversial housing program.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the rezoning of Flushing West moves forward, the existing affordable housing stock there is at risk.</p> <p dir="ltr">After much public debate and protest, Mayor de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) plan was approved by the New York City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6222-sides-near-a-deal-on-major-zoning-changes-aimed-at-creating-affordable-housing" target="_blank">in March</a>. MIH is a citywide policy that requires residential developers in newly upzoned areas to provide some below market-rate housing, either inside a new development or somewhere off site. As MIH (and the related Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) plan) moved through ULURP, communities contested the plan on numerous grounds: it would not build enough affordable housing; the affordable housing that would be built would be too expensive for those most in need; increased density would exacerbate transportation, education, and infrastructure problems; large new buildings would alter local streetscapes; and, most importantly, the plan would spur luxury development and hasten gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">Relative to the vigorous and sustained public debate on these issues, there has been little public discussion on the ways that the city’s proposed rezonings are already impacting New York City’s largest form of affordable housing: rent regulation through rent control and rent stabilization.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rent regulation accounts for nearly all of Flushing’s affordable housing. The neighborhood’s white-hot real estate market, however, increasingly threatens these rent-stabilized apartments. &nbsp;DCP’s proposed rezoning - which links the production of affordable housing with the construction of thousands of luxury units - has only increased land speculation and, therefore, landlords’ imperative to deregulate their holdings. Though the rezoning has been paired with an increase in funding for anti-eviction legal services, it has already catalyzed a number of <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/07/15/developer-plans-new-flushing-mixed-use-residential-complex/" target="_blank">hyper-speculative real estate transactions</a> in downtown Flushing, including within the rezoning area.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on the 2014 state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) <a href="http://www.nycrgb.org/downloads/resources/sta_bldngs/2014QueensBldgs.pdf" target="_blank">list of rent-regulated buildings</a>, there are 388 rent-stabilized buildings in Flushing. This list, however, includes buildings that have partially converted to co-ops, meaning some units are owned by residents. Conversion of rental buildings to cooperatives requires a minimum of 15 percent of tenants opting to purchase their apartments. DHCR lists properties as rent stabilized as long as there is at least one rent-stabilized unit in the building.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on a review of city<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/taxes/property-annualized-sales-update.page" target="_blank"> Department of Finance sales data</a>, 81 buildings, including five that converted to cooperative in the past year or so, recorded 1,198 apartment sales since 2010. In addition to the hundreds of co-op sales in rent-stabilized buildings, 42 buildings (with a combined total of 1,800 rent-stabilized apartments) were also sold during the study period of 2010 to January 2016. The sold buildings represent a sizable 11 percent of all of Flushing’s rent-stabilized buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">In December 2015, a massive sale of eight rent-stabilized buildings, all but one located a few blocks from Flushing’s waterfront, was covered by <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Crain’s New York Business</a>. These rent-stabilized buildings, comprising 488 apartments, are clustered on Flushing’s Sanford Avenue and were sold to an investor group represented by New Jersey-based Treetop Development LLC. ACORE, a California-based investment fund established in May 2015 - only a few months before the Sanford Avenue purchases - financed the hefty $138.8 million purchase. ACORE is capitalized by a $1.6 billion commitment from Delphi Financial Group Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tokio Marine Group, Japan’s largest publicly traded insurer. &nbsp;The purchase of seven Sanford Avenue rent-stabilized buildings, financed by transnational private equity investors, illustrates how multi-family, rental properties in the outer boroughs are treated as global investment vehicles with tremendous potential profits.</p> <p dir="ltr">In order for those profits to be realized, however, rents will have to increase substantially, and in all likelihood, the apartments will be deregulated. Although Treetop Development LLC principal <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Adam Mermelstein reassured</a>, “We’re not running after tenants like some landlords do, trying to induce turnover on the apartments to get them to market rate,” their $10 million investment in “an intensive capital expenditures program” portends displacement. Treetop Development LLC plans to renovate apartments and landscape gardens in order to “<a href="http://treetopdev.com/projects.php?project='the-summit'" target="_blank">remake the Flushing Portfolio into one of the premier residential addresses in Flushing, Queens</a>.” This rebranding language underscores that so-called “major capital improvements” in rent-stabilized buildings are a primary landlord strategy to permanently raise rents and facilitate tenant turnover.</p> <p dir="ltr">This speculative activity is not confined to privately-owned buildings. Queens College students learned from a local resident that tenants were recently evicted from 132-30 Sanford Avenue. This building is listed on two real estate websites as for sale, with one site noting that the building is <a href="http://www.elliman.com/new-york-city/132-30-sanford-avenue-queens-ytaqkjg" target="_blank">currently under contract</a>. Further research indicated the building is owned by one of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE)’s tax-exempt organizations - Community Homes Housing Development Fund Company Inc. According to <a href="https://a836-acris.nyc.gov/DS/DocumentSearch/DocumentImageView?doc_id=2008093001230001" target="_blank">the building’s deed</a>, AAFE purchased the building in 2008 for $3.5 million. Online realtor descriptions highlight the gap in current and potential rent revenues as a key selling point: “<a href="http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14362996/132-30-Sanford-Ave-Flushing-NY/" target="_blank">The average monthly rent is $1,023 month, approx. 76% of the current market value, offering tremendous upside potential</a>.” The building is now selling for $9.8 million - a 180 percent increase in just eight years.</p> <p dir="ltr">In October 2015, DCP completed a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/applicants/env-review/flushing-west/draft_scope.pdf" target="_blank">Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement</a>, which identified 13 projected development sites and included a breakdown of anticipated outcomes based on the proposed upzoning. On these 13 sites, DCP expects the production of 2,062 residential units (excluding 1,254 units of luxury housing currently under construction at Sky View Parc) of which 516 would be affordable to households earning 60 percent of AMI ($54,360 annual income for a family of four) or 619 units affordable to households earning 80 percent AMI ($69,040 annual income for a family of four).</p> <p dir="ltr">DCP’s Draft Scope of Work was completed before the City Council added the option of 20 percent of units affordable at 40 percent AMI, which would mean the Flushing West rezoning may result in 412 units affordable to a family of four with an annual income of $36,240. The <a href="http://qns.com/story/2015/11/09/flushing-community-groups-join-together-to-fight-for-affordable-housing/" target="_blank">Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance</a>, a coalition of nonprofits, unions, and churches, fought hard for this option because the median household income for downtown Flushing residents is just $34,428. The final Flushing plan may also include additional HPD subsidies toward deeper affordability, but the extent, quantity, and longevity of those subsidies is yet to be determined.</p> <p dir="ltr">With Flushing’s remaining rent-regulated apartments at stake, it is important to look at the balance of what is being offered now: the proposed rezoning will produce thousands of market-rate, luxury housing units; a mere 412 apartments will be affordable to average Flushing residents (and then only if the local City Council member and developers choose the newly added option); and nothing at all will be built for families making below-median wages.</p> <p dir="ltr">The neighborhood’s wholesale transformation, which has already begun in expectation of an upzoning, would sweep rent-regulated housing up in its wake and trigger even more harassment, rent hikes, and evictions than the neighborhood has already seen. This scenario demonstrates that Mayor de Blasio’s MIH program is less about preserving neighborhood affordability than turning working-class spaces into luxury enclaves, with small pockets for the middle class.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Flushing’s overheated real estate market, where even nonprofits enrich themselves by selling rent-stabilized buildings for enormous profits, this planned rezoning is already adding fuel to fires of gentrification and displacement. The addition of a few hundred units of affordable housing could not possibly stem the transformative effects of global finance and commercial real estate speculation, and the preservation program the city is currently pursuing will do little to protect rent-regulated apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">City planners must stop acting as if the negative consequences of upzonings on rent-regulated housing will be mitigated by the paltry provision of new quasi-affordable units, or by increased investments in legal services (though the latter are, of course, important). Instead, we need to prioritize the preservation of rent-stabilized apartments and the production of truly affordable housing, decoupled from market-rate development and its attendant impacts on neighborhood land markets.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Tarry Hum is a Professor at the City University of New York and author of <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2299_reg.html" target="_blank">Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Samuel Stein is a PhD student in Geography at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.</p> <p>

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</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/Flushing-Sanford-Ave.jpg" alt="Flushing town hall" height="424" width="600" /></p> <hr /> <p dir="ltr">Last week, the New York City Council approved the contested <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/city/6287-east-new-york-deal-sets-precedent-for-wave-of-rezonings" target="_blank">East New York rezoning</a> - the first of 15 proposed neighborhood rezonings through which Mayor de Blasio intends to advance his goal of preserving 120,000 units of affordable housing and producing 80,000 new units at below-market rents. Described by some as a rezoning taking place “<a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/09/plan-to-rezone-flushing-west-flies-under-the-radar/" target="_blank">under the radar</a>,” the Department of City Planning (DCP) has been conducting a planning study and holding numerous community town halls on a ten-block area of Queens dubbed “Flushing West.”</p> <p dir="ltr">This proposed rezoning would have a transformative impact on Flushing, a densely populated, pan-Asian immigrant neighborhood with a sizable Latino population and a small but historic African-American community. Although DCP recently postponed the April certification of the Flushing West rezoning plan (which would have initiated the uniform land use review procedure (ULURP), the plan continues to move forward and remains a key piece of the mayor’s controversial housing program.</p> <p dir="ltr">As the rezoning of Flushing West moves forward, the existing affordable housing stock there is at risk.</p> <p dir="ltr">After much public debate and protest, Mayor de Blasio’s mandatory inclusionary housing (MIH) plan was approved by the New York City Council <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6222-sides-near-a-deal-on-major-zoning-changes-aimed-at-creating-affordable-housing" target="_blank">in March</a>. MIH is a citywide policy that requires residential developers in newly upzoned areas to provide some below market-rate housing, either inside a new development or somewhere off site. As MIH (and the related Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) plan) moved through ULURP, communities contested the plan on numerous grounds: it would not build enough affordable housing; the affordable housing that would be built would be too expensive for those most in need; increased density would exacerbate transportation, education, and infrastructure problems; large new buildings would alter local streetscapes; and, most importantly, the plan would spur luxury development and hasten gentrification.</p> <p dir="ltr">Relative to the vigorous and sustained public debate on these issues, there has been little public discussion on the ways that the city’s proposed rezonings are already impacting New York City’s largest form of affordable housing: rent regulation through rent control and rent stabilization.</p> <p dir="ltr">Rent regulation accounts for nearly all of Flushing’s affordable housing. The neighborhood’s white-hot real estate market, however, increasingly threatens these rent-stabilized apartments. &nbsp;DCP’s proposed rezoning - which links the production of affordable housing with the construction of thousands of luxury units - has only increased land speculation and, therefore, landlords’ imperative to deregulate their holdings. Though the rezoning has been paired with an increase in funding for anti-eviction legal services, it has already catalyzed a number of <a href="http://therealdeal.com/2015/07/15/developer-plans-new-flushing-mixed-use-residential-complex/" target="_blank">hyper-speculative real estate transactions</a> in downtown Flushing, including within the rezoning area.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on the 2014 state Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) <a href="http://www.nycrgb.org/downloads/resources/sta_bldngs/2014QueensBldgs.pdf" target="_blank">list of rent-regulated buildings</a>, there are 388 rent-stabilized buildings in Flushing. This list, however, includes buildings that have partially converted to co-ops, meaning some units are owned by residents. Conversion of rental buildings to cooperatives requires a minimum of 15 percent of tenants opting to purchase their apartments. DHCR lists properties as rent stabilized as long as there is at least one rent-stabilized unit in the building.</p> <p dir="ltr">Based on a review of city<a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/taxes/property-annualized-sales-update.page" target="_blank"> Department of Finance sales data</a>, 81 buildings, including five that converted to cooperative in the past year or so, recorded 1,198 apartment sales since 2010. In addition to the hundreds of co-op sales in rent-stabilized buildings, 42 buildings (with a combined total of 1,800 rent-stabilized apartments) were also sold during the study period of 2010 to January 2016. The sold buildings represent a sizable 11 percent of all of Flushing’s rent-stabilized buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">In December 2015, a massive sale of eight rent-stabilized buildings, all but one located a few blocks from Flushing’s waterfront, was covered by <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Crain’s New York Business</a>. These rent-stabilized buildings, comprising 488 apartments, are clustered on Flushing’s Sanford Avenue and were sold to an investor group represented by New Jersey-based Treetop Development LLC. ACORE, a California-based investment fund established in May 2015 - only a few months before the Sanford Avenue purchases - financed the hefty $138.8 million purchase. ACORE is capitalized by a $1.6 billion commitment from Delphi Financial Group Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Tokio Marine Group, Japan’s largest publicly traded insurer. &nbsp;The purchase of seven Sanford Avenue rent-stabilized buildings, financed by transnational private equity investors, illustrates how multi-family, rental properties in the outer boroughs are treated as global investment vehicles with tremendous potential profits.</p> <p dir="ltr">In order for those profits to be realized, however, rents will have to increase substantially, and in all likelihood, the apartments will be deregulated. Although Treetop Development LLC principal <a href="http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20151204/REAL_ESTATE/151209927/new-jersey-firm-bets-on-queens-buys-138-8-million-apartment-portfolio-in-flushing-and-elmhurst" target="_blank">Adam Mermelstein reassured</a>, “We’re not running after tenants like some landlords do, trying to induce turnover on the apartments to get them to market rate,” their $10 million investment in “an intensive capital expenditures program” portends displacement. Treetop Development LLC plans to renovate apartments and landscape gardens in order to “<a href="http://treetopdev.com/projects.php?project='the-summit'" target="_blank">remake the Flushing Portfolio into one of the premier residential addresses in Flushing, Queens</a>.” This rebranding language underscores that so-called “major capital improvements” in rent-stabilized buildings are a primary landlord strategy to permanently raise rents and facilitate tenant turnover.</p> <p dir="ltr">This speculative activity is not confined to privately-owned buildings. Queens College students learned from a local resident that tenants were recently evicted from 132-30 Sanford Avenue. This building is listed on two real estate websites as for sale, with one site noting that the building is <a href="http://www.elliman.com/new-york-city/132-30-sanford-avenue-queens-ytaqkjg" target="_blank">currently under contract</a>. Further research indicated the building is owned by one of Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE)’s tax-exempt organizations - Community Homes Housing Development Fund Company Inc. According to <a href="https://a836-acris.nyc.gov/DS/DocumentSearch/DocumentImageView?doc_id=2008093001230001" target="_blank">the building’s deed</a>, AAFE purchased the building in 2008 for $3.5 million. Online realtor descriptions highlight the gap in current and potential rent revenues as a key selling point: “<a href="http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/14362996/132-30-Sanford-Ave-Flushing-NY/" target="_blank">The average monthly rent is $1,023 month, approx. 76% of the current market value, offering tremendous upside potential</a>.” The building is now selling for $9.8 million - a 180 percent increase in just eight years.</p> <p dir="ltr">In October 2015, DCP completed a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/planning/download/pdf/applicants/env-review/flushing-west/draft_scope.pdf" target="_blank">Draft Scope of Work for an Environmental Impact Statement</a>, which identified 13 projected development sites and included a breakdown of anticipated outcomes based on the proposed upzoning. On these 13 sites, DCP expects the production of 2,062 residential units (excluding 1,254 units of luxury housing currently under construction at Sky View Parc) of which 516 would be affordable to households earning 60 percent of AMI ($54,360 annual income for a family of four) or 619 units affordable to households earning 80 percent AMI ($69,040 annual income for a family of four).</p> <p dir="ltr">DCP’s Draft Scope of Work was completed before the City Council added the option of 20 percent of units affordable at 40 percent AMI, which would mean the Flushing West rezoning may result in 412 units affordable to a family of four with an annual income of $36,240. The <a href="http://qns.com/story/2015/11/09/flushing-community-groups-join-together-to-fight-for-affordable-housing/" target="_blank">Flushing Rezoning Community Alliance</a>, a coalition of nonprofits, unions, and churches, fought hard for this option because the median household income for downtown Flushing residents is just $34,428. The final Flushing plan may also include additional HPD subsidies toward deeper affordability, but the extent, quantity, and longevity of those subsidies is yet to be determined.</p> <p dir="ltr">With Flushing’s remaining rent-regulated apartments at stake, it is important to look at the balance of what is being offered now: the proposed rezoning will produce thousands of market-rate, luxury housing units; a mere 412 apartments will be affordable to average Flushing residents (and then only if the local City Council member and developers choose the newly added option); and nothing at all will be built for families making below-median wages.</p> <p dir="ltr">The neighborhood’s wholesale transformation, which has already begun in expectation of an upzoning, would sweep rent-regulated housing up in its wake and trigger even more harassment, rent hikes, and evictions than the neighborhood has already seen. This scenario demonstrates that Mayor de Blasio’s MIH program is less about preserving neighborhood affordability than turning working-class spaces into luxury enclaves, with small pockets for the middle class.</p> <p dir="ltr">In Flushing’s overheated real estate market, where even nonprofits enrich themselves by selling rent-stabilized buildings for enormous profits, this planned rezoning is already adding fuel to fires of gentrification and displacement. The addition of a few hundred units of affordable housing could not possibly stem the transformative effects of global finance and commercial real estate speculation, and the preservation program the city is currently pursuing will do little to protect rent-regulated apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">City planners must stop acting as if the negative consequences of upzonings on rent-regulated housing will be mitigated by the paltry provision of new quasi-affordable units, or by increased investments in legal services (though the latter are, of course, important). Instead, we need to prioritize the preservation of rent-stabilized apartments and the production of truly affordable housing, decoupled from market-rate development and its attendant impacts on neighborhood land markets.</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />Tarry Hum is a Professor at the City University of New York and author of <a href="http://www.temple.edu/tempress/titles/2299_reg.html" target="_blank">Making a Global Immigrant Neighborhood: Brooklyn's Sunset Park</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">Samuel Stein is a PhD student in Geography at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.</p> <p>

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Wary of Gentrification, East Harlem Braces for Rapid Change 2016-03-31T05:00:00+00:00 2016-03-31T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=6253:wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-rapid-change Super User <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/east_harlem_mural.jpg" alt="east harlem mural" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Hank Prussing's mural, The Spirit of East Harlem (via @ManhattanCB11)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Pearl Barkley moved to East Harlem in the 1950s, when she was six years old. Her family lived in the Jefferson Houses on 115th Street, where she lives today and works as an organizer with Community Voices Heard, an economic justice advocacy non-profit.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many people remember the fires, the abandoned boarded up buildings, and the people who left,” Barkley said in an interview. Essential services began disappearing from the neighborhood in the 1970s, she said, due in large part to city and federal policies that encouraged <a href="https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/releases/jul10/53.pdf">“benign neglect”</a> of poor neighborhoods of color.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They left the neighborhood to fend for itself,” Barkley said. “And the community was strong, but it suffered.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now, East Harlem is a hot property,” Barkley said. “We have to bring the focus back to the people who were originally here and went through all of this. We have to make sure that the people who were here can stay here.” While she doesn’t necessarily take issue with newcomers to the neighborhood, Barkley emphasizes that preserving homes for long-term residents of the neighborhood should take precedent over new developments.</p> <p dir="ltr">Newcomers have been moving into East Harlem for some time, drawn by its upper-Manhattan perch, lower rents, and access to public transit. But now, El Barrio - like a variety of other low-income areas populated predominantly by people of color - is becoming increasingly desirable to developers hoping to accommodate waves of middle-class renters.</p> <p dir="ltr">In February, The New York Times named East Harlem one of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/realestate/new-yorks-next-hot-neighborhoods.html">New York’s Next Hot Neighborhoods</a>, noting that 21 development sites had recently “traded hands,” and pointing to its lower-than-average real estate prices, good transit options, and historic architecture.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you want to stay in Manhattan,” the author wrote, “East Harlem may be your best bet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">To long-term residents who want to stay in their neighborhoods, this kind of attention from the real estate market is synonymous with anxieties about inequity, marginalization, and displacement. And rightly so, as rents have skyrocketed across the city, incomes have stagnated, and the affordable housing crisis tops the list of policy issues facing New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration prepares to rezone <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6191-a-closer-look-at-de-blasios-neighborhood-rezoning-plans">15 neighborhoods</a>, including East Harlem, as part of a plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in New York City, residents are bracing for further shifts that some believe will drastically change the landscape of their neighborhood, push long-term residents out of their homes as new residents move in, and threaten local businesses. In a word, gentrification: the force that has been sweeping through New York City neighborhoods and striking fear in places set for new investment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even as policies like Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires set percentages of rent-controlled units in new developments, move toward enactment in an administration-run rezoning process, some East Harlem stakeholders are making proactive attempts at steering their community’s future. Led by the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose home district includes East Harlem, a broad coalition of residents and groups created a comprehensive plan to shape the rezoning of the neighborhood.</p> <p dir="ltr">Members of that coalition and other groups have organized to protect against displacement while also championing changes that will improve their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains to be seen how successful residents will be in achieving control over the way their neighborhood changes -- and who will be left to enjoy the fruits of that labor. But one thing is certain: East Harlem - a low-income community populated primarily by people of color, imbued with deep-rooted history and culture, situated in an area ripe for speculation by developers, struggling amid an affordable housing crisis -- is at a tipping point.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community character</strong><br />The neighborhood of just over 123,000 residents hugs the northeast corner of Central Park along Fifth Avenue, runs South until 96th Street, and spreads east toward the Harlem and East Rivers, where large portions of the East Harlem Esplanade are crumbling into the water.</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino neighborhoods in New York City, the result of waves of Puerto Rican and Latin American immigration to the area after World War I, followed by more South and Central American arrivals throughout the 20th century. In spite of demographic changes over the last decade, East Harlem is still mostly populated by people of color and an immigrant neighborhood, with Hispanic and black residents comprising 81 percent of the population, and about a quarter of residents foreign-born, according to <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/data/2015chp-mn11.pdf">U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2013</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The dominant culture is reflected everywhere: Spanish is spoken on every corner, storefronts advertise Latin American food, music, and good, and large-scale, colorful murals pervade the neighborhood with images of Latin American activists and artists.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that this is where Mark-Viverito, born and raised in Puerto Rico, settled after coming to the United States in 1987 to attend Columbia University. After college, Mark-Viverito participated in a mentorship program for young Latinos, coordinated New York-based efforts to drive the U.S. Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, co-founded women’s economic justice group Mujeres del Barrio, and served on Community Board 11. Mark-Viverito was elected to the City Council in 2005, and re-elected twice before becoming the first Puerto Rican and Latina to win the Speaker’s office when her colleagues selected her in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Speaker is now at the helm of a City Council reckoning with an affordable housing crisis and scars and fears of gentrification across several neighborhoods; charged with the task of building and preserving affordable housing and improving neighborhoods while protecting communities’ cultures and livelihoods at a pivotal time. It is a struggle filled with economic and social tensions exemplified in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14337705347_c9f9ac4afe_z.jpg" alt="MMV shaking hands distrit" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="250" width="375" />“It’s an ongoing battle,” the speaker (pictured, left) told <a href="http://larespuestamedia.com/melissa-mark-viverito-interview/">La Respuesta</a> in a 2014 interview. “Longtime residents in our communities that are finding themselves with limited options to stay, and feel they have no other place to go and are being displaced, is obviously alarming. We have a responsibility to do as much as we can to try to figure out how to stem that tide, but we’re also faced with limitations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem’s history as a stronghold of people of color and immigrants follows the arc of many other urban communities throughout the U.S. The neighborhood first felt the impact of urban renewal initiatives in 1938, when NYCHA began razing low-rise tenements and relocating residents to make way for <a href="http://www.6sqft.com/towers-in-the-park-le-corbusiers-influence-in-nyc/">“towers-in-the-park”</a> housing developments also seen in larger examples at Stuyvesant Town and Co-op City. The city cleared more land containing factories, stores, and community centers in the 1960s, but failed to attract investors to the area. The result was an abundance of overgrown lots and a fragmented urban landscape that set the scene for the increase in poverty, violence, and arson that plagued the neighborhood during the ‘60s and ‘70s.</p> <p dir="ltr">These policies, Pearl Barkley said, along with growing wealth disparity and disenfranchisement of low-income people of color, pushed East Harlem - its residents, infrastructure, and local economy - into the political periphery, and dramatically exacerbated socioeconomic problems that plagued the neighborhood throughout the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Housing East Harlemites</strong><br />Today, a lack of affordable market-rate housing all but defines the residential landscape of East Harlem, where the majority of residents rely on public housing, rental assistance, or rent stabilization to afford their homes. A <a href="http://www.arch.columbia.edu/files/gsapp/imceshared/East_Harlem_Studio_2011.pdf">2011 report</a> from Columbia University calls East Harlem one of the “last holdouts of undeveloped Manhattan,” citing its waterfront and public transit options as contributors to the neighborhood’s growing vulnerability to displacement. These factors, combined with the voracity of the real estate market and a concentration of low-income residents, have cranked up pressure on the housing stock in El Barrio, driving rents - and fears of displacement - ever higher.</p> <p dir="ltr">Enter <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf">Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan</a> to encourage more residential development all over the city, with affordable housing mandates, and to rezone East Harlem to add density and neighborhood improvements. De Blasio and supporters of his approach, including Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, believe that without this type of government intervention, the forces of the market will run wild over East Harlem as they have in Central Harlem, several Brooklyn neighborhoods, and elsewhere over the past two decades. With any increase in development, though, comes heightened fear as well as very real change.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Not enough housing, not enough income</strong><br />With <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">only 8 percent</a> of privately-owned units owner-occupied, East Harlem is a community of renters. And, over half of rental households are considered <a href="http://furmancenter.org/NYCRentalLandscape">rent-burdened</a>, paying more than 30 percent of total household income on gross rent, or severely rent-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of income on rent, and are particularly susceptible to the throes of the real estate market.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Census Bureau <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">reported in 2014</a> that 55 percent of rental units in East Harlem were either rent-stabilized or government-assisted, and another 28 percent are NYCHA units, leaving less than a quarter of the renter-occupied housing stock unregulated.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there is still a considerable concentration of regulated and subsidized units in East Harlem, this cache is shrinking as units age out of rent regulation and landlords evict or coerce tenants into vacating stabilized apartments in order to raise rents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The loss is considerable, with 2,500 rent-stabilized or subsidized units disappearing from East Harlem between 2007 and 2014, and a projected 4,200 more gone by 2030, according to <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/neigh_info/statement_needs/mn11_statement.pdf">Community Board 11’s 2016 Statement of Needs</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor hopes to curb the loss of such regulated rental units through his <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/housing/index.page">Housing New York Plan</a>, which seeks to preserve 120,000 existing affordable units throughout the five boroughs. To this end, the administration has doubled HPD’s funding and begun initiatives around landlord harassment, deregulation, and targeted investment in vulnerable communities, among others. The administration is more aggressively targeting opportunities to work with landlords to offer benefits in exchange for extending rent regulations.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at a press conference in January that the administration is ahead of schedule, having preserved nearly 14,000 units in projects like Stuyvesant Town, Riverton Houses, and smaller buildings, and that the overall program was on track to build or preserve 200,000 units by 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr">While <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160112/bed-stuy/de-blasio-says-his-200k-units-of-affordable-housing-are-ahead-of-schedule">critics of the plan assert</a> that not enough affordable units are targeted at very low-income New Yorkers, de Blasio said that 75 percent of the 40,000-plus units built or preserved over the first two years of the timeline have been for extremely low income, very low income, and low income residents.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Concentrated public housing</strong><br />The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) plays a vital role in maintaining a large portion of East Harlem’s affordable housing stock, with 30% of residents living in NYCHA-owned properties. This is the second-highest concentration of public housing in the city - a result of urban renewal initiatives begun in 1941, when one of NYCHA’s earliest housing developments, the East River Houses, went up on 102nd Street. Another wave of renewal, led by Robert Moses and funded by the 1949 Federal Housing Act, razed existing structures and constructed the Thomas Jefferson Houses in 1959. Today, there are 24 public housing developments in the neighborhood. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the last two decades, federal and state budget cuts have weakened NYCHA, leaving the agency with a $74 million deficit in 2015, and facing capital needs of about $17 billion over the next five years, according to the city. This shortfall has resulted in crumbling buildings, breakdowns in communication between tenants and the agency, increased violence in housing developments, and myriad other problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5838-another-way-of-looking-at-infill-housing-development">launched last summer</a> the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page">NextGeneration NYCHA</a> initiative as part of a “ten-year plan aimed at preserving public housing for the future generations,” according to the city’s website. The administration describes NextGen as a long-term strategy to change the way NYCHA properties are funded, operated, and designed, and to revamp the way the agency engages with residents - all in an attempt to prevent the housing authority from being turned over to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development - an acquisition that could result in the sale of housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most controversial aspect of NextGen NYCHA is a plan in which underutilized land within NYCHA developments will either be leased for housing development, with buildings half market-rate and half affordable. Opponents say that the plan <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/11/18/does-nychas-development-plan-vindicate-john-rhea/">too-closely resembles</a> former Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt at infill on NYCHA land, which de Blasio vehemently opposed, and a step on the path to privatizing what is now public housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">NYCHA CEO and Chair Shola Olatoye <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/05/20/de-blasio-administration-seeks-to-develop-nycha-land/">told City Limits in May 2015</a> that building affordable housing on NYCHA land is a way to reconnect public developments to surrounding neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Residents want improved playgrounds, basketball courts, things we do not receive funding for. One way I can deliver on that is to maximize revenue from development,” she said. "If people want their development to improve, they have to be flexible about what kinds of changes they're willing to accept."</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at the program’s launch that it would result in the construction of 10,000 new affordable units on NYCHA land. If the plan succeeds, it will eliminate NYCHA’s crippling operating deficit. The city’s argument is that this strategy will add affordable housing, new revenue, and community improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first NextGen project in East Harlem led to the opening last fall of the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning, which occupies a parking lot once owned by NYCHA. The project includes an eleven-story residential building containing 100% subsidized units. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/arts/design/how-to-build-affordable-housing-in-new-york-city.html">New York Times reported</a> in January that the development serves a “mix of working and disabled tenants, many from the neighborhood.” The building connects to the new Dream Charter School, which serves almost 500 students.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Times reported “overwhelmingly positive reactions” to the Center, it remains to be seen whether similar “infill” initiatives will be welcomed by other NYCHA residents wary of privatization and gentrification - or if the program will even produce enough revenue to bolster the floundering agency. Olatoye <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8595005/nycha-chair-says-agency-budget-millions-red?top-featured-image">told the City Council on Monday</a> that while its financial situation is improving, NYCHA is still tens of millions of dollars in the red, but is hoping that programs like NextGen will ease the burden.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With NextGen, we can reduce NYCHA’s deficit by a total of more than $1 billion over the next five years,” Olatoye told the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Space to use</strong><br />The East Harlem housing shortage is exacerbated by vacancy of both city- and privately-owned properties, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer and area organizations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/nyregion/audit-proposes-using-vacant-lots-owned-by-new-york-city-for-affordable-housing.html">traded barbs in February</a> over a comptroller <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FM14_112A.pdf">report </a>indicating that, as of September of 2015, HPD owned 1,131 uninhabited lots throughout Manhattan, and chiding the city agency for what Stringer called a lax pace of transference for properties that should be developed into affordable housing. Stringer held a press conference for the report’s release outside of an HPD-owned vacant property on East 123 Street, one of over 50 vacant properties the comptroller’s office found in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This vacant lot has been owned by the city since the seventies, collecting garbage, attracting rats, and hurting the proud community of El Barrio,” Stringer said at the press conference. “We’re in an affordability crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen – yet our most valuable resource, vacant space, is readily available all across this city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer was joined at the conference by members of Picture the Homeless, an advocacy organization based on East 126 Street that has long campaigned for turning vacant lots into affordable housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The organization <a href="http://picturethehomeless.org/project/banking-on-vacancy-homelessness-real-estate-speculation/">released its own report in 2012</a>, for which teams of homeless and formerly homeless PTH members and other volunteers scoured Manhattan neighborhoods in search of vacant buildings and lots. They identified 143 empty lots and buildings in East Harlem, and highlighted a block of East 116th Street between Lexington and Park as an example of the problem: nearly half the buildings were empty or boarded up. About 95 percent of all vacant properties surveyed were privately owned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Been’s rebuttal, which was included in Stringer’s report, emphatically denied the comptroller’s findings.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Your assertion that HPD allows vacant City-owned properties to languish in the face of the affordable housing crisis is simply wrong,” Been wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been went on to clarify that residential development is only feasible on about 670 of the 1,100 properties; the rest are unsuitable due to location in dangerous areas like flood zones, or lack adequate access to public transportation or sewage infrastructure. Of those 670 viable sites, Been wrote, “roughly 400 have been earmarked for developer designation within the next two years.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The remaining sites will either be developed for residential uses within the duration of de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan or turned over to the Department of Parks and Recreation for use as community gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>An acute homelessness problem</strong><br />For those who have managed to hold on to housing, the rent - as in the rest of New York City - is going up. East Harlem’s median gross rent increased by 53 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates for 2013.</p> <p dir="ltr">The data combine to paint a bleak picture for low-income residents of El Barrio. As of 2013, over a quarter of East Harlem households <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/about/nyc-housing-vacancy-report.page">were considered in “severe need”</a> by HPD, based on the number of people who are rent burdened, entering homeless shelters, or living in overcrowded apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">This grim combination appears to hit East Harlem residents particularly hard, resulting in the worst case scenario for a number of households. According to <a href="http://www.anhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2015-ANHD-Affordable-Housing-at-risk-for-mkt-rate.pdf">data</a> from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), 306 families entering shelters in 2014 listed East Harlem as their last address - the highest rate of entry to family shelters from any neighborhood in Manhattan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jazmin Berges, 32, has been living in Marcus Garvey Park for the past three years. Berges was born and raised in the Bronx, but moved to East Harlem with a partner. When that relationship ended, she was unable to find housing that she could afford.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rent is going sky-high in the neighborhood,” Berges told Gotham Gazette. “The community is being restructured, small businesses are closing, and people who lose their jobs can’t afford their rents.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Berges, who works with Picture the Homeless, believes that rent regulation doesn’t go far enough, and emphasized that a <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/05/advocacy-group-pitches-plan-for-nyc-homeless-housing/">community land trust</a> - a not-for-profit entity that acquires and holds property to preserve accessible housing - is the only way to keep permanent affordable housing in East Harlem. “Even low-income housing isn’t low-income housing,” Berges said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>New land use rules come to East Harlem</strong><br />It is unsurprising that East Harlem was included on the list of 15 neighborhoods to be rezoned under Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. The plan targets lower-density and low-income areas where demand is or is soon expected to be strong enough to support new development. Over several years, beginning this year with East New York, in Brooklyn, the administration plans to rezone the 15 neighborhoods to allow for more density and neighborhood improvement through more green space, school seats, and transportation infrastructure. The big centerpiece, of course, is housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Essentially, the city’s plans mandate that any area rezoned to allow greater housing density - neighborhood or individual plot of land - will require significant numbers of affordable units as part of market-rate development.</p> <p dir="ltr">The New York City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of the two major components of the plan that the neighborhood rezonings rely on - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - on March 22. The passage was a considerable victory for the administration after months of pushback and protest from community boards and advocacy groups, and negotiations with the City Council to modify the plan to include more affordability and a few other tweaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the plan, which was changed to include more units affordable to lower-income households, MIH requires that developers who build residential units in rezoned areas set aside 20-30% of new units as permanently affordable for households making 40-80% of the Area Median Income, or AMI. Under MIH, there are a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/housing/downloads/pdf/mih-fact-sheet.pdf">variety of options</a> that will be chosen by City Council members, developers, and the mayoral administration. ZQA, which stirred less broad controversy than MIH, focused on changing parking requirements and height limits to encourage more senior affordable housing, improve retail space design, and streetscape planning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio said in a statement after the vote, “New York City is now one step closer to being a city where everyone can work and live,” and thanked Speaker Mark-Viverito for her efforts in passing the “landmark legislation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said at a hearing on MIH in February that the program “will bring new affordable housing to neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn’t be built, and act as a cushion against potential gentrification of communities caused by broad demographic trends we are seeing in so many neighborhoods, simultaneously freeing up city funds to provide even more deeply affordable housing at lower rents where economic need is great.” &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Some opponents of MIH see a flaw in that what the plan defines as “affordable” does not include the lowest-income residents in what are now largely low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Affordability levels are <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/17/the-secret-history-of-ami/">determined by the area median income</a> of the five boroughs, plus Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland Counties, which comes out to about $77,700 for a three-person household. The AMI for East Harlem is $33,595, or less than half (43%) of the figure that serves as a baseline for affordability calculations.</p> <p dir="ltr">MIH mandates that a percentage of affordable units built in rezoned neighborhoods must be affordable to households of certain earnings - for example, one option sets aside 20% of units for those earning an average of 40% of AMI, or about $31,00 for a family of three. This is the lowest income band option in MIH, and one that the Council insisted on adding to the de Blasio administration’s initial proposal. Households in East Harlem’s poorest zip code, 10035, earn an AMI of just $24,000, which critics say puts new affordable units out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor, the speaker, and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been have stated often that a combination of HPD subsidies and other housing programs will address the gap of affordability for the lowest-income New Yorkers. This is where the neighborhood rezonings also factor in. Mark-Viverito has said repeatedly that she plans to get to 50-50 market rate-affordable for new development in her district.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community Board 11, which represents East Harlem <a href="http://www.citylandnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/12/MIH-ZQA-CB-Tracker-Final-ALL-VOTES-IN.pdf">joined</a> 43 other community boards across the city in voting against de Blasio’s proposal on November 23 of last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">"But in the end," the mayor said at a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6007-mayor-and-speaker-rezoning-plans-will-change-before-council-vote">press conference in November,</a> "the community boards aren't the final decision makers.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><b>READ ON - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">PAGE 2 of 2</a> - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">How East Harlemites are attempting to shape the future of their neighborhood and more</a></b></p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/east_harlem_mural.jpg" alt="east harlem mural" height="450" width="600" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">Hank Prussing's mural, The Spirit of East Harlem (via @ManhattanCB11)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Pearl Barkley moved to East Harlem in the 1950s, when she was six years old. Her family lived in the Jefferson Houses on 115th Street, where she lives today and works as an organizer with Community Voices Heard, an economic justice advocacy non-profit.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Many people remember the fires, the abandoned boarded up buildings, and the people who left,” Barkley said in an interview. Essential services began disappearing from the neighborhood in the 1970s, she said, due in large part to city and federal policies that encouraged <a href="https://www.nixonlibrary.gov/virtuallibrary/releases/jul10/53.pdf">“benign neglect”</a> of poor neighborhoods of color.</p> <p dir="ltr">“They left the neighborhood to fend for itself,” Barkley said. “And the community was strong, but it suffered.”</p> <p dir="ltr">“Now, East Harlem is a hot property,” Barkley said. “We have to bring the focus back to the people who were originally here and went through all of this. We have to make sure that the people who were here can stay here.” While she doesn’t necessarily take issue with newcomers to the neighborhood, Barkley emphasizes that preserving homes for long-term residents of the neighborhood should take precedent over new developments.</p> <p dir="ltr">Newcomers have been moving into East Harlem for some time, drawn by its upper-Manhattan perch, lower rents, and access to public transit. But now, El Barrio - like a variety of other low-income areas populated predominantly by people of color - is becoming increasingly desirable to developers hoping to accommodate waves of middle-class renters.</p> <p dir="ltr">In February, The New York Times named East Harlem one of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/28/realestate/new-yorks-next-hot-neighborhoods.html">New York’s Next Hot Neighborhoods</a>, noting that 21 development sites had recently “traded hands,” and pointing to its lower-than-average real estate prices, good transit options, and historic architecture.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If you want to stay in Manhattan,” the author wrote, “East Harlem may be your best bet.”</p> <p dir="ltr">To long-term residents who want to stay in their neighborhoods, this kind of attention from the real estate market is synonymous with anxieties about inequity, marginalization, and displacement. And rightly so, as rents have skyrocketed across the city, incomes have stagnated, and the affordable housing crisis tops the list of policy issues facing New York City.</p> <p dir="ltr">Now, as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration prepares to rezone <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6191-a-closer-look-at-de-blasios-neighborhood-rezoning-plans">15 neighborhoods</a>, including East Harlem, as part of a plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing in New York City, residents are bracing for further shifts that some believe will drastically change the landscape of their neighborhood, push long-term residents out of their homes as new residents move in, and threaten local businesses. In a word, gentrification: the force that has been sweeping through New York City neighborhoods and striking fear in places set for new investment.</p> <p dir="ltr">Even as policies like Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which requires set percentages of rent-controlled units in new developments, move toward enactment in an administration-run rezoning process, some East Harlem stakeholders are making proactive attempts at steering their community’s future. Led by the Speaker of the City Council, Melissa Mark-Viverito, whose home district includes East Harlem, a broad coalition of residents and groups created a comprehensive plan to shape the rezoning of the neighborhood.</p> <p dir="ltr">Members of that coalition and other groups have organized to protect against displacement while also championing changes that will improve their community.</p> <p dir="ltr">It remains to be seen how successful residents will be in achieving control over the way their neighborhood changes -- and who will be left to enjoy the fruits of that labor. But one thing is certain: East Harlem - a low-income community populated primarily by people of color, imbued with deep-rooted history and culture, situated in an area ripe for speculation by developers, struggling amid an affordable housing crisis -- is at a tipping point.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Community character</strong><br />The neighborhood of just over 123,000 residents hugs the northeast corner of Central Park along Fifth Avenue, runs South until 96th Street, and spreads east toward the Harlem and East Rivers, where large portions of the East Harlem Esplanade are crumbling into the water.</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem is one of the largest predominantly Latino neighborhoods in New York City, the result of waves of Puerto Rican and Latin American immigration to the area after World War I, followed by more South and Central American arrivals throughout the 20th century. In spite of demographic changes over the last decade, East Harlem is still mostly populated by people of color and an immigrant neighborhood, with Hispanic and black residents comprising 81 percent of the population, and about a quarter of residents foreign-born, according to <a href="https://www1.nyc.gov/html/doh/downloads/pdf/data/2015chp-mn11.pdf">U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2013</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The dominant culture is reflected everywhere: Spanish is spoken on every corner, storefronts advertise Latin American food, music, and good, and large-scale, colorful murals pervade the neighborhood with images of Latin American activists and artists.</p> <p dir="ltr">It is no coincidence that this is where Mark-Viverito, born and raised in Puerto Rico, settled after coming to the United States in 1987 to attend Columbia University. After college, Mark-Viverito participated in a mentorship program for young Latinos, coordinated New York-based efforts to drive the U.S. Navy from the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, co-founded women’s economic justice group Mujeres del Barrio, and served on Community Board 11. Mark-Viverito was elected to the City Council in 2005, and re-elected twice before becoming the first Puerto Rican and Latina to win the Speaker’s office when her colleagues selected her in 2014.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Speaker is now at the helm of a City Council reckoning with an affordable housing crisis and scars and fears of gentrification across several neighborhoods; charged with the task of building and preserving affordable housing and improving neighborhoods while protecting communities’ cultures and livelihoods at a pivotal time. It is a struggle filled with economic and social tensions exemplified in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr"><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/14337705347_c9f9ac4afe_z.jpg" alt="MMV shaking hands distrit" style="margin: 8px; float: left;" height="250" width="375" />“It’s an ongoing battle,” the speaker (pictured, left) told <a href="http://larespuestamedia.com/melissa-mark-viverito-interview/">La Respuesta</a> in a 2014 interview. “Longtime residents in our communities that are finding themselves with limited options to stay, and feel they have no other place to go and are being displaced, is obviously alarming. We have a responsibility to do as much as we can to try to figure out how to stem that tide, but we’re also faced with limitations.”</p> <p dir="ltr">East Harlem’s history as a stronghold of people of color and immigrants follows the arc of many other urban communities throughout the U.S. The neighborhood first felt the impact of urban renewal initiatives in 1938, when NYCHA began razing low-rise tenements and relocating residents to make way for <a href="http://www.6sqft.com/towers-in-the-park-le-corbusiers-influence-in-nyc/">“towers-in-the-park”</a> housing developments also seen in larger examples at Stuyvesant Town and Co-op City. The city cleared more land containing factories, stores, and community centers in the 1960s, but failed to attract investors to the area. The result was an abundance of overgrown lots and a fragmented urban landscape that set the scene for the increase in poverty, violence, and arson that plagued the neighborhood during the ‘60s and ‘70s.</p> <p dir="ltr">These policies, Pearl Barkley said, along with growing wealth disparity and disenfranchisement of low-income people of color, pushed East Harlem - its residents, infrastructure, and local economy - into the political periphery, and dramatically exacerbated socioeconomic problems that plagued the neighborhood throughout the second half of the 20th century.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Housing East Harlemites</strong><br />Today, a lack of affordable market-rate housing all but defines the residential landscape of East Harlem, where the majority of residents rely on public housing, rental assistance, or rent stabilization to afford their homes. A <a href="http://www.arch.columbia.edu/files/gsapp/imceshared/East_Harlem_Studio_2011.pdf">2011 report</a> from Columbia University calls East Harlem one of the “last holdouts of undeveloped Manhattan,” citing its waterfront and public transit options as contributors to the neighborhood’s growing vulnerability to displacement. These factors, combined with the voracity of the real estate market and a concentration of low-income residents, have cranked up pressure on the housing stock in El Barrio, driving rents - and fears of displacement - ever higher.</p> <p dir="ltr">Enter <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf">Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan</a> to encourage more residential development all over the city, with affordable housing mandates, and to rezone East Harlem to add density and neighborhood improvements. De Blasio and supporters of his approach, including Council Speaker Mark-Viverito, believe that without this type of government intervention, the forces of the market will run wild over East Harlem as they have in Central Harlem, several Brooklyn neighborhoods, and elsewhere over the past two decades. With any increase in development, though, comes heightened fear as well as very real change.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Not enough housing, not enough income</strong><br />With <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">only 8 percent</a> of privately-owned units owner-occupied, East Harlem is a community of renters. And, over half of rental households are considered <a href="http://furmancenter.org/NYCRentalLandscape">rent-burdened</a>, paying more than 30 percent of total household income on gross rent, or severely rent-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of income on rent, and are particularly susceptible to the throes of the real estate market.</p> <p dir="ltr">The city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the Census Bureau <a href="http://www.census.gov/housing/nychvs/">reported in 2014</a> that 55 percent of rental units in East Harlem were either rent-stabilized or government-assisted, and another 28 percent are NYCHA units, leaving less than a quarter of the renter-occupied housing stock unregulated.</p> <p dir="ltr">While there is still a considerable concentration of regulated and subsidized units in East Harlem, this cache is shrinking as units age out of rent regulation and landlords evict or coerce tenants into vacating stabilized apartments in order to raise rents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The loss is considerable, with 2,500 rent-stabilized or subsidized units disappearing from East Harlem between 2007 and 2014, and a projected 4,200 more gone by 2030, according to <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/neigh_info/statement_needs/mn11_statement.pdf">Community Board 11’s 2016 Statement of Needs</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor hopes to curb the loss of such regulated rental units through his <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/housing/index.page">Housing New York Plan</a>, which seeks to preserve 120,000 existing affordable units throughout the five boroughs. To this end, the administration has doubled HPD’s funding and begun initiatives around landlord harassment, deregulation, and targeted investment in vulnerable communities, among others. The administration is more aggressively targeting opportunities to work with landlords to offer benefits in exchange for extending rent regulations.</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at a press conference in January that the administration is ahead of schedule, having preserved nearly 14,000 units in projects like Stuyvesant Town, Riverton Houses, and smaller buildings, and that the overall program was on track to build or preserve 200,000 units by 2024.</p> <p dir="ltr">While <a href="https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20160112/bed-stuy/de-blasio-says-his-200k-units-of-affordable-housing-are-ahead-of-schedule">critics of the plan assert</a> that not enough affordable units are targeted at very low-income New Yorkers, de Blasio said that 75 percent of the 40,000-plus units built or preserved over the first two years of the timeline have been for extremely low income, very low income, and low income residents.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Concentrated public housing</strong><br />The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) plays a vital role in maintaining a large portion of East Harlem’s affordable housing stock, with 30% of residents living in NYCHA-owned properties. This is the second-highest concentration of public housing in the city - a result of urban renewal initiatives begun in 1941, when one of NYCHA’s earliest housing developments, the East River Houses, went up on 102nd Street. Another wave of renewal, led by Robert Moses and funded by the 1949 Federal Housing Act, razed existing structures and constructed the Thomas Jefferson Houses in 1959. Today, there are 24 public housing developments in the neighborhood. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Over the last two decades, federal and state budget cuts have weakened NYCHA, leaving the agency with a $74 million deficit in 2015, and facing capital needs of about $17 billion over the next five years, according to the city. This shortfall has resulted in crumbling buildings, breakdowns in communication between tenants and the agency, increased violence in housing developments, and myriad other problems.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5838-another-way-of-looking-at-infill-housing-development">launched last summer</a> the <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/nycha/about/nextgen-nycha.page">NextGeneration NYCHA</a> initiative as part of a “ten-year plan aimed at preserving public housing for the future generations,” according to the city’s website. The administration describes NextGen as a long-term strategy to change the way NYCHA properties are funded, operated, and designed, and to revamp the way the agency engages with residents - all in an attempt to prevent the housing authority from being turned over to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development - an acquisition that could result in the sale of housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The most controversial aspect of NextGen NYCHA is a plan in which underutilized land within NYCHA developments will either be leased for housing development, with buildings half market-rate and half affordable. Opponents say that the plan <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/11/18/does-nychas-development-plan-vindicate-john-rhea/">too-closely resembles</a> former Mayor Bloomberg’s attempt at infill on NYCHA land, which de Blasio vehemently opposed, and a step on the path to privatizing what is now public housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">NYCHA CEO and Chair Shola Olatoye <a href="http://citylimits.org/2015/05/20/de-blasio-administration-seeks-to-develop-nycha-land/">told City Limits in May 2015</a> that building affordable housing on NYCHA land is a way to reconnect public developments to surrounding neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Residents want improved playgrounds, basketball courts, things we do not receive funding for. One way I can deliver on that is to maximize revenue from development,” she said. "If people want their development to improve, they have to be flexible about what kinds of changes they're willing to accept."</p> <p dir="ltr">De Blasio said at the program’s launch that it would result in the construction of 10,000 new affordable units on NYCHA land. If the plan succeeds, it will eliminate NYCHA’s crippling operating deficit. The city’s argument is that this strategy will add affordable housing, new revenue, and community improvements.</p> <p dir="ltr">The first NextGen project in East Harlem led to the opening last fall of the East Harlem Center for Living and Learning, which occupies a parking lot once owned by NYCHA. The project includes an eleven-story residential building containing 100% subsidized units. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/26/arts/design/how-to-build-affordable-housing-in-new-york-city.html">New York Times reported</a> in January that the development serves a “mix of working and disabled tenants, many from the neighborhood.” The building connects to the new Dream Charter School, which serves almost 500 students.</p> <p dir="ltr">While the Times reported “overwhelmingly positive reactions” to the Center, it remains to be seen whether similar “infill” initiatives will be welcomed by other NYCHA residents wary of privatization and gentrification - or if the program will even produce enough revenue to bolster the floundering agency. Olatoye <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2016/03/8595005/nycha-chair-says-agency-budget-millions-red?top-featured-image">told the City Council on Monday</a> that while its financial situation is improving, NYCHA is still tens of millions of dollars in the red, but is hoping that programs like NextGen will ease the burden.</p> <p dir="ltr">“With NextGen, we can reduce NYCHA’s deficit by a total of more than $1 billion over the next five years,” Olatoye told the Council.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>Space to use</strong><br />The East Harlem housing shortage is exacerbated by vacancy of both city- and privately-owned properties, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer and area organizations.</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/18/nyregion/audit-proposes-using-vacant-lots-owned-by-new-york-city-for-affordable-housing.html">traded barbs in February</a> over a comptroller <a href="http://comptroller.nyc.gov/wp-content/uploads/documents/FM14_112A.pdf">report </a>indicating that, as of September of 2015, HPD owned 1,131 uninhabited lots throughout Manhattan, and chiding the city agency for what Stringer called a lax pace of transference for properties that should be developed into affordable housing. Stringer held a press conference for the report’s release outside of an HPD-owned vacant property on East 123 Street, one of over 50 vacant properties the comptroller’s office found in East Harlem.</p> <p dir="ltr">“This vacant lot has been owned by the city since the seventies, collecting garbage, attracting rats, and hurting the proud community of El Barrio,” Stringer said at the press conference. “We’re in an affordability crisis the likes of which we’ve never seen – yet our most valuable resource, vacant space, is readily available all across this city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Stringer was joined at the conference by members of Picture the Homeless, an advocacy organization based on East 126 Street that has long campaigned for turning vacant lots into affordable housing sites.</p> <p dir="ltr">The organization <a href="http://picturethehomeless.org/project/banking-on-vacancy-homelessness-real-estate-speculation/">released its own report in 2012</a>, for which teams of homeless and formerly homeless PTH members and other volunteers scoured Manhattan neighborhoods in search of vacant buildings and lots. They identified 143 empty lots and buildings in East Harlem, and highlighted a block of East 116th Street between Lexington and Park as an example of the problem: nearly half the buildings were empty or boarded up. About 95 percent of all vacant properties surveyed were privately owned.</p> <p dir="ltr">Commissioner Been’s rebuttal, which was included in Stringer’s report, emphatically denied the comptroller’s findings.</p> <p dir="ltr">"Your assertion that HPD allows vacant City-owned properties to languish in the face of the affordable housing crisis is simply wrong,” Been wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been went on to clarify that residential development is only feasible on about 670 of the 1,100 properties; the rest are unsuitable due to location in dangerous areas like flood zones, or lack adequate access to public transportation or sewage infrastructure. Of those 670 viable sites, Been wrote, “roughly 400 have been earmarked for developer designation within the next two years.”</p> <p dir="ltr">The remaining sites will either be developed for residential uses within the duration of de Blasio’s 10-year housing plan or turned over to the Department of Parks and Recreation for use as community gardens.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>An acute homelessness problem</strong><br />For those who have managed to hold on to housing, the rent - as in the rest of New York City - is going up. East Harlem’s median gross rent increased by 53 percent between 2000 and 2013, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) 5-Year Estimates for 2013.</p> <p dir="ltr">The data combine to paint a bleak picture for low-income residents of El Barrio. As of 2013, over a quarter of East Harlem households <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/about/nyc-housing-vacancy-report.page">were considered in “severe need”</a> by HPD, based on the number of people who are rent burdened, entering homeless shelters, or living in overcrowded apartments.</p> <p dir="ltr">This grim combination appears to hit East Harlem residents particularly hard, resulting in the worst case scenario for a number of households. According to <a href="http://www.anhd.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/2015-ANHD-Affordable-Housing-at-risk-for-mkt-rate.pdf">data</a> from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), 306 families entering shelters in 2014 listed East Harlem as their last address - the highest rate of entry to family shelters from any neighborhood in Manhattan.</p> <p dir="ltr">Jazmin Berges, 32, has been living in Marcus Garvey Park for the past three years. Berges was born and raised in the Bronx, but moved to East Harlem with a partner. When that relationship ended, she was unable to find housing that she could afford.</p> <p dir="ltr">“Rent is going sky-high in the neighborhood,” Berges told Gotham Gazette. “The community is being restructured, small businesses are closing, and people who lose their jobs can’t afford their rents.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Berges, who works with Picture the Homeless, believes that rent regulation doesn’t go far enough, and emphasized that a <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/05/advocacy-group-pitches-plan-for-nyc-homeless-housing/">community land trust</a> - a not-for-profit entity that acquires and holds property to preserve accessible housing - is the only way to keep permanent affordable housing in East Harlem. “Even low-income housing isn’t low-income housing,” Berges said.</p> <p dir="ltr"><strong>New land use rules come to East Harlem</strong><br />It is unsurprising that East Harlem was included on the list of 15 neighborhoods to be rezoned under Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan. The plan targets lower-density and low-income areas where demand is or is soon expected to be strong enough to support new development. Over several years, beginning this year with East New York, in Brooklyn, the administration plans to rezone the 15 neighborhoods to allow for more density and neighborhood improvement through more green space, school seats, and transportation infrastructure. The big centerpiece, of course, is housing.</p> <p dir="ltr">Essentially, the city’s plans mandate that any area rezoned to allow greater housing density - neighborhood or individual plot of land - will require significant numbers of affordable units as part of market-rate development.</p> <p dir="ltr">The New York City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of the two major components of the plan that the neighborhood rezonings rely on - Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA) - on March 22. The passage was a considerable victory for the administration after months of pushback and protest from community boards and advocacy groups, and negotiations with the City Council to modify the plan to include more affordability and a few other tweaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">According to the plan, which was changed to include more units affordable to lower-income households, MIH requires that developers who build residential units in rezoned areas set aside 20-30% of new units as permanently affordable for households making 40-80% of the Area Median Income, or AMI. Under MIH, there are a <a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/assets/housing/downloads/pdf/mih-fact-sheet.pdf">variety of options</a> that will be chosen by City Council members, developers, and the mayoral administration. ZQA, which stirred less broad controversy than MIH, focused on changing parking requirements and height limits to encourage more senior affordable housing, improve retail space design, and streetscape planning.</p> <p dir="ltr">Mayor de Blasio said in a statement after the vote, “New York City is now one step closer to being a city where everyone can work and live,” and thanked Speaker Mark-Viverito for her efforts in passing the “landmark legislation.”</p> <p dir="ltr">City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod said at a hearing on MIH in February that the program “will bring new affordable housing to neighborhoods where it otherwise wouldn’t be built, and act as a cushion against potential gentrification of communities caused by broad demographic trends we are seeing in so many neighborhoods, simultaneously freeing up city funds to provide even more deeply affordable housing at lower rents where economic need is great.” &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Some opponents of MIH see a flaw in that what the plan defines as “affordable” does not include the lowest-income residents in what are now largely low-income neighborhoods.</p> <p dir="ltr">Affordability levels are <a href="http://citylimits.org/2016/02/17/the-secret-history-of-ami/">determined by the area median income</a> of the five boroughs, plus Putnam, Westchester, and Rockland Counties, which comes out to about $77,700 for a three-person household. The AMI for East Harlem is $33,595, or less than half (43%) of the figure that serves as a baseline for affordability calculations.</p> <p dir="ltr">MIH mandates that a percentage of affordable units built in rezoned neighborhoods must be affordable to households of certain earnings - for example, one option sets aside 20% of units for those earning an average of 40% of AMI, or about $31,00 for a family of three. This is the lowest income band option in MIH, and one that the Council insisted on adding to the de Blasio administration’s initial proposal. Households in East Harlem’s poorest zip code, 10035, earn an AMI of just $24,000, which critics say puts new affordable units out of reach.</p> <p dir="ltr">The mayor, the speaker, and HPD Commissioner Vicki Been have stated often that a combination of HPD subsidies and other housing programs will address the gap of affordability for the lowest-income New Yorkers. This is where the neighborhood rezonings also factor in. Mark-Viverito has said repeatedly that she plans to get to 50-50 market rate-affordable for new development in her district.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community Board 11, which represents East Harlem <a href="http://www.citylandnyc.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2015/12/MIH-ZQA-CB-Tracker-Final-ALL-VOTES-IN.pdf">joined</a> 43 other community boards across the city in voting against de Blasio’s proposal on November 23 of last year.</p> <p dir="ltr">"But in the end," the mayor said at a <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6007-mayor-and-speaker-rezoning-plans-will-change-before-council-vote">press conference in November,</a> "the community boards aren't the final decision makers.”</p> <p dir="ltr"><b>READ ON - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">PAGE 2 of 2</a> - <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/6258-wary-of-gentrification-east-harlem-braces-for-change-page-two" target="_blank">How East Harlemites are attempting to shape the future of their neighborhood and more</a></b></p> De Blasio Housing Chief Looks to Allay Fears, Build Support for Rezonings 2015-11-13T21:47:43+00:00 2015-11-13T21:47:43+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/?id=5988:de-blasio-housing-chief-looks-to-allay-fears-build-support-for-rezonings Super User <p dir="ltr"><img alt="Been NY Law School" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Been_NY_Law_School.jpg" width="600" height="328" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York Law School's Ross Sandler &amp; HPD's Vicki Been (Phoebe Rosen for NYLS)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said that the city’s affordable housing plan is on track and responded to critics on Friday, emphasizing that the plan is less about simply building units and more about “making neighborhoods better.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the CityLand publication of New York Law School, Been gave a balanced, thorough review of the concerns people have expressed about the city’s rezoning plans, but said that the city, through HPD, is implementing policies that will prevent displacement and ensure existing residents are included as neighborhoods change.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nearly two years into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term, his ten-year <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf" target="_blank">Housing New York</a> plan to preserve or build 200,000 units of affordable housing is on target, Been declared, with the city having closed on more than 30,000 affordable homes. But two key elements of the plan, <a href="http://home.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/housing/mandatory-inclusionary-housing-summary.shtml" target="_blank">Mandatory Inclusionary Housing</a> and <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/zoning-qa/zoning-for-affordability-1.shtml" target="_blank">Zoning for Quality and Affordability</a>, have run into community opposition in recent months as the city begins the public review process that is likely to lead to their passage through the City Council, potentially with a few tweaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a community meeting last month in East New York, Assembly Member Charles Barron and City Council Member Inez Barron <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151020/east-new-york/east-new-yorkers-urged-reject-citys-rezoning-plan" target="_blank">urged residents</a> to vote against a <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/east_new_york/index.shtml" target="_blank">proposal</a> to rezone the neighborhood, according to DNAinfo. The two said that while the new units built may be designated “affordable,” they may not actually be affordable to existing residents. This concern, among several specific problems that critics point to with the plans, has been voiced in other neighborhoods as well. An extensive borough- and community-based review of the proposals is underway, with varying results thus far as local community boards vote in non-determinative polls.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community boards have thus far had mixed responses to the proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability plans. While Brooklyn’s CB6 <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151112/carroll-gardens/park-slope-carroll-gardens-cb6-approves-citys-rezoning-proposal" target="_blank">approved</a> the proposals this week, Brooklyn’s CB3 and Queens’ CB2 <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151110/long-island-city/queens-cb2-rejects-affordable-housing-plan-citing-overcrowding-concerns" target="_blank">rejected</a> the same proposals earlier this month. Residents in Brooklyn’s CB3, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, said they were <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151103/bed-stuy/citys-rezoning-proposal-shot-down-by-bed-stuy-community-board" target="_blank">concerned</a> about the plan allowing taller buildings to be built, changing the neighborhood’s character, and eventually forcing them to move out of the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">More borough- and community-based hearings are upcoming, including one being held by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Monday evening, and City Council hearings are not far off.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan would require 25 to 30 percent of new units built in a rezoned area to be “permanently affordable,” while the Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan would change existing zoning laws to promote the construction of more affordable and higher quality buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">During an appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, Mayor de Blasio said his zoning plans are informed by what he saw as a lack of city regulation and planning in places like Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been said that all such plans are controversial because current residents fear they could be displaced - that gentrification is scary to many in and near neighborhoods that have been changing over the years. But Been also said the East New York plan, which aims to provide more than 3,000 units of affordable housing and improve transport and business corridors, was something the city should be doing more of. She also said that rezonings don’t actually lead to more flight from neighborhoods by low-income tenants than is a typical amount of transience.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaking to Gotham Gazette after the event, Been said that while she would like the rezoning plans to be more widely accepted, “we would like to get it passed, and we’re very optimistic.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She had a similarly optimistic response to a question from the audience about the future of the 421-a tax abatement, which will expire in December if it is not renewed given a deal between labor and real estate. “Life will go on,” Been said to chuckles from the crowd. “There was life before 421-a, and there will be life if 421-a fails. We will survive and still deliver our 200,000 units.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Been indicated she would like to see 421-a survive and that it, in a newly strengthened form, will be helpful in achieving the administration’s goals.</p> <p dir="ltr">Either way, the administration’s rezoning plans are moving along. East New York is among the first neighborhoods the city plans to rezone, along with East Harlem and Flushing, among others. Some East Harlem tenants <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own" target="_blank">recently announced</a> their own opposition to the plans. During her speech Friday, Been showed a presentation that included current photos of streets in East New York and future renderings that showed new, six-story apartment buildings with street-level retail space.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been said that while change is inevitable when investments are made in a neighborhood, the city’s approach will address concerns about displacement and gentrification while she also highlighted the positives that come with community development.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If we’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a neighborhood, we’re doing it to make the neighborhood a bit better. We want it to be a more vibrant place…So as it gets better, it will become more desirable,” Been said. While low-income people face a lot of housing insecurity across the board, she said that recent <a href="http://uar.sagepub.com/content/40/4/463.abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows that renters are not moving out of gentrifying neighborhoods at higher rates. Still, she acknowledged that “whatever the research shows, people fear displacement and they fear displacement for perfectly legitimate reasons.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Been pointed to a variety of policies included in the Housing New York plan that are aimed at preventing displacement. Most importantly, she said that the city will “double down” on efforts and take a data-driven approach to preserve existing affordable units. “We can’t let any unit of housing that is already affordable become market rate,” she said, noting that de Blasio’s plan promises to preserve at least 120,000 homes that would otherwise become market rate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been also mentioned efforts in reaching out to owners of small buildings to preserve or establish affordability, providing legal assistance to protect tenants from harassment, changing vacancy decontrol laws, and establishing community preferences for distributing the new housing stock.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re really working hard to make sure that people in the neighborhoods and the lowest income people do get into the housing we’re building,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been also noted that Housing New York plans include families earning as little as 30 percent of area median income (AMI)—or $15,000 for single households. “We are stretching our housing boat down and a little up, so that we provide economically diverse neighborhoods and do not concentrate poverty,” she said. While some new buildings will be 100 percent affordable, many others will be mixed levels of affordability, with some units renting at market rate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Providing housing for those earning below 30 percent of AMI would be too expensive using the same approach, Been said, noting that the city has historically relied on the federal Department of Housing Urban Development’s Section 8 voucher program, funding for which has been cut in recent years. “That’s why we’re struggling so hard to provide housing below the 30 percent level,” she said in response to a question from an audience member.</p> <p dir="ltr">The affordable housing plan is “formed with the basic belief that we have to shape development instead of react to it,” she said. “Too much of the discourse is about stopping development. You don’t stop development in a city like New York…Let’s shape it to serve the interests of the neighborhoods across the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Christian Zhang, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p> <p dir="ltr"><img alt="Been NY Law School" src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Been_NY_Law_School.jpg" width="600" height="328" /></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-size: 10pt;">New York Law School's Ross Sandler &amp; HPD's Vicki Been (Phoebe Rosen for NYLS)</span></p> <hr /> <p>Vicki Been, commissioner of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, said that the city’s affordable housing plan is on track and responded to critics on Friday, emphasizing that the plan is less about simply building units and more about “making neighborhoods better.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the CityLand publication of New York Law School, Been gave a balanced, thorough review of the concerns people have expressed about the city’s rezoning plans, but said that the city, through HPD, is implementing policies that will prevent displacement and ensure existing residents are included as neighborhoods change.</p> <p dir="ltr">Nearly two years into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s term, his ten-year <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf" target="_blank">Housing New York</a> plan to preserve or build 200,000 units of affordable housing is on target, Been declared, with the city having closed on more than 30,000 affordable homes. But two key elements of the plan, <a href="http://home.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/housing/mandatory-inclusionary-housing-summary.shtml" target="_blank">Mandatory Inclusionary Housing</a> and <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/zoning-qa/zoning-for-affordability-1.shtml" target="_blank">Zoning for Quality and Affordability</a>, have run into community opposition in recent months as the city begins the public review process that is likely to lead to their passage through the City Council, potentially with a few tweaks.</p> <p dir="ltr">At a community meeting last month in East New York, Assembly Member Charles Barron and City Council Member Inez Barron <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151020/east-new-york/east-new-yorkers-urged-reject-citys-rezoning-plan" target="_blank">urged residents</a> to vote against a <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/east_new_york/index.shtml" target="_blank">proposal</a> to rezone the neighborhood, according to DNAinfo. The two said that while the new units built may be designated “affordable,” they may not actually be affordable to existing residents. This concern, among several specific problems that critics point to with the plans, has been voiced in other neighborhoods as well. An extensive borough- and community-based review of the proposals is underway, with varying results thus far as local community boards vote in non-determinative polls.</p> <p dir="ltr">Community boards have thus far had mixed responses to the proposed Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability plans. While Brooklyn’s CB6 <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151112/carroll-gardens/park-slope-carroll-gardens-cb6-approves-citys-rezoning-proposal" target="_blank">approved</a> the proposals this week, Brooklyn’s CB3 and Queens’ CB2 <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151110/long-island-city/queens-cb2-rejects-affordable-housing-plan-citing-overcrowding-concerns" target="_blank">rejected</a> the same proposals earlier this month. Residents in Brooklyn’s CB3, which includes Bedford-Stuyvesant, said they were <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20151103/bed-stuy/citys-rezoning-proposal-shot-down-by-bed-stuy-community-board" target="_blank">concerned</a> about the plan allowing taller buildings to be built, changing the neighborhood’s character, and eventually forcing them to move out of the area.</p> <p dir="ltr">More borough- and community-based hearings are upcoming, including one being held by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on Monday evening, and City Council hearings are not far off.</p> <p dir="ltr">The Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan would require 25 to 30 percent of new units built in a rezoned area to be “permanently affordable,” while the Zoning for Quality and Affordability plan would change existing zoning laws to promote the construction of more affordable and higher quality buildings.</p> <p dir="ltr">During an appearance on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, Mayor de Blasio said his zoning plans are informed by what he saw as a lack of city regulation and planning in places like Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been said that all such plans are controversial because current residents fear they could be displaced - that gentrification is scary to many in and near neighborhoods that have been changing over the years. But Been also said the East New York plan, which aims to provide more than 3,000 units of affordable housing and improve transport and business corridors, was something the city should be doing more of. She also said that rezonings don’t actually lead to more flight from neighborhoods by low-income tenants than is a typical amount of transience.</p> <p dir="ltr">Speaking to Gotham Gazette after the event, Been said that while she would like the rezoning plans to be more widely accepted, “we would like to get it passed, and we’re very optimistic.”</p> <p dir="ltr">She had a similarly optimistic response to a question from the audience about the future of the 421-a tax abatement, which will expire in December if it is not renewed given a deal between labor and real estate. “Life will go on,” Been said to chuckles from the crowd. “There was life before 421-a, and there will be life if 421-a fails. We will survive and still deliver our 200,000 units.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Still, Been indicated she would like to see 421-a survive and that it, in a newly strengthened form, will be helpful in achieving the administration’s goals.</p> <p dir="ltr">Either way, the administration’s rezoning plans are moving along. East New York is among the first neighborhoods the city plans to rezone, along with East Harlem and Flushing, among others. Some East Harlem tenants <a href="http://www.gothamgazette.com/index.php/government/5972-east-harlem-tenants-group-rejects-de-blasio-housing-plan-offer-its-own" target="_blank">recently announced</a> their own opposition to the plans. During her speech Friday, Been showed a presentation that included current photos of streets in East New York and future renderings that showed new, six-story apartment buildings with street-level retail space.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been said that while change is inevitable when investments are made in a neighborhood, the city’s approach will address concerns about displacement and gentrification while she also highlighted the positives that come with community development.</p> <p dir="ltr">“If we’re investing hundreds of millions of dollars in a neighborhood, we’re doing it to make the neighborhood a bit better. We want it to be a more vibrant place…So as it gets better, it will become more desirable,” Been said. While low-income people face a lot of housing insecurity across the board, she said that recent <a href="http://uar.sagepub.com/content/40/4/463.abstract" target="_blank">research</a> shows that renters are not moving out of gentrifying neighborhoods at higher rates. Still, she acknowledged that “whatever the research shows, people fear displacement and they fear displacement for perfectly legitimate reasons.”</p> <p dir="ltr">Been pointed to a variety of policies included in the Housing New York plan that are aimed at preventing displacement. Most importantly, she said that the city will “double down” on efforts and take a data-driven approach to preserve existing affordable units. “We can’t let any unit of housing that is already affordable become market rate,” she said, noting that de Blasio’s plan promises to preserve at least 120,000 homes that would otherwise become market rate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been also mentioned efforts in reaching out to owners of small buildings to preserve or establish affordability, providing legal assistance to protect tenants from harassment, changing vacancy decontrol laws, and establishing community preferences for distributing the new housing stock.</p> <p dir="ltr">“We’re really working hard to make sure that people in the neighborhoods and the lowest income people do get into the housing we’re building,” she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Been also noted that Housing New York plans include families earning as little as 30 percent of area median income (AMI)—or $15,000 for single households. “We are stretching our housing boat down and a little up, so that we provide economically diverse neighborhoods and do not concentrate poverty,” she said. While some new buildings will be 100 percent affordable, many others will be mixed levels of affordability, with some units renting at market rate.</p> <p dir="ltr">Providing housing for those earning below 30 percent of AMI would be too expensive using the same approach, Been said, noting that the city has historically relied on the federal Department of Housing Urban Development’s Section 8 voucher program, funding for which has been cut in recent years. “That’s why we’re struggling so hard to provide housing below the 30 percent level,” she said in response to a question from an audience member.</p> <p dir="ltr">The affordable housing plan is “formed with the basic belief that we have to shape development instead of react to it,” she said. “Too much of the discourse is about stopping development. You don’t stop development in a city like New York…Let’s shape it to serve the interests of the neighborhoods across the city.”</p> <p dir="ltr">***<br />by Christian Zhang, Gotham Gazette<br /><a href="https://twitter.com/GothamGazette" target="_blank">@GothamGazette</a></p>