Drawing Conclusions: New York Housing and You!

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Last month the Village Voice’s Runnin’ Scared staff contacted me to do a cool project for them. I was asked to draw the news, but the coolest part was that I was also asked to write the article that the illustrations would accompany! It was an awesome opportunity to live out my Fletch fantasies and learn a little about a profession I’ve always admired. In the end the work never ran, but they suggested I self publish. Check it out. Special thanks to Sydney Brownstone.
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W ell, it’s apartment hunting season again and while we’re all crying over rent increases, wondering who the hell would pay half their salary to live in a sardine can in an up and coming neighborhood. Don’t worry. Bodega rats are the new bodega cats. So friendly.

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Bloomberg’s cronies–ahem–administration over at the troubled NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) are proudly doing their best to solve the agency’s financial deficit and continue to provide well maintained affordable housing for low- income families.

How are they doing this?

NYCHA’s plan is to lease underdeveloped land (i.e. playgrounds, community centers) in Manhattan ‘s projects to private developers looking to build luxury residential towers.  NYCHA’s  plan to save The public housing, the INFILL program , would build around 4,000 (3,974 confirmed) luxury apartments on existing underdeveloped land throughout eight of Manhattan’s public housing units. 

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According to the Community Service Society, which has issued an open letter to halt the project– NYCHA is forcing these changes on the communities affected without stakeholder input. Community members -who may want other configurations in place  (commercial or retail space, or community facilities like playgrounds or basketball courts. ) The community board leaders only found out about the plan because the New York Daily News leaked the documents back in February.

NYCHA maintains that the agency has held 17 resident and shareholder meetings since March. Fred Harris, the Executive Vice President of Development at NYCHA- -not the Devil– spoke to me over the phone and explained that “…many of the meetings were presentations with room for questions, while others had more room for input from community members with individual tabling for ideas.”

But many public housing residents simply don’t want the buildings. Still, with a serious financial deficit to tackle, this isn’t enough to convince the NYCHA to drop its plan. The residents want the capital to be met through other means. The CSS, meanwhile, suggests that the city discount the $100 million the NYCHA pays annually for public services such as sanitation and police enforcement, as a start.

The NYCHA is still structuring a proposal for the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) which means that negotiating development won’t officially be in the works (a series of community board, city council, and mayoral reviews) until July or August. Here’s the rub: If the opinions of those that have to live with these developments are being ignored now, why would a powerless community board be listened to in the fall?

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If INFILL is implemented, those that can afford Manhattan’s market value rent will be able to experience the “nitty gritty” New York. Yuppies can live in the projects without..…ya know..… living in the projects. (For the young professional with a thirst for adventure and class tourism!)  On the bright side, 20 percent of the new housing (approximately 800 units) will be permanent affordable housing, something this city could always use more of.

 

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Speaking of affordable housing and being ignored by housing authorities…last Thursday, June 13th, the Rent Guidelines Board held a public hearing at the Emigrant Savings Bank Building at 10 a.m., conveniently when most of us tenants had to be at work. In fact, this entire year the RGB hasn’t held any hearings during evening hours or in the outer boroughs, which make up roughly 75 percent of the apartments they regulate.  Many mayoral candidates (John Liu, Christine Quinn, and Bill De Blasio) came out in support of tenants, but the nine member board’s interests lay securely vested with those of the property owners. 

The board has the power to freeze rent increases but will instead be voting on an increase that could reach 9.5 percent on Thursday, June 20th. It’ll be in the basement of the Great Hall at Cooper Union at 5:30 PM. If you’re tired of living in a city that spits on anyone earning less than 60k a year, be there.

 In the words of New York’s finest,

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Editor’s note: The RGB did their worst. They essentially doubled last year’s increase. 4 percent for one year. 7.5 percent for two. Mega bummer. 

David Antonio Perezcassar is a brooklyn based Illustrator and cub reporter trying to keep you up to date on the news with what he calls graphic journalism. You’re welcome, eyeballs. Follow me on twitter @drawdavedraw

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