NYC CPC ULURP No. 170359 (A) ZRM Proposal Testimony Against the East Harlem Rezoning Plan
Submitted to the City Planning Commission by Roger Hernandez, Jr. on August 23, 2017
The East Harlem community never invited this MIH QZM Amendment Proposal, and does not support it.
This proposal is a horrifying displacement plan of East Harlem’s poor masked as a Trojan Horse being pushed by the NYC Administration of Mayor William de Blasio.
In fact, the CB11 voted against this plan (with 2 abstentions) in November of 2015, and again in 2017. Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer does not support this plan, and now it is NYC CPC’s prerogative to kill this gentrification plan.
East Harlem’s 181,236 majority of residents live mostly with incomes of less than $50,000.00 (see Exhibit Figure 3-3 of the East Harlem Rezoning DEIS Report), with a Median Household Income of $36,064.00 (Table 3-4) that makes this area decidedly poor and vulnerable.
That is quite remarkable for a special vibrant community viewed as The Working Man’s Manhattan by Columbia U. School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, 2011. Kindly put this plan to rest with your rationale considerations.
Under the worst case scenario, The Mayor’s Rezoning action will escalate the burden against East Harlem’s low-income population by establishing 70% of the total available housing for households earning more than $78,300.00 (Table 3-8, pg. 3-22 of the DEIS Report) Ironically this plan is being waxed as a “Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Plan” for East Harlem while it actually does not present any level of “affordability” for its own residents, nor is it “mandatory”, as it is actually “exclusionary”- discounting a majority of East Harlem’s families, friends and neighbors because of their own low income status.
This aggressive targeting of East Harlem’s current residents is viewed as a racist ploy to displace Latino and African Americans out of Manhattan, and out of New York City. How could it be viewed otherwise?
NYC Governmental policy after WWII created the legislative conditions that allowed landlords diminishing profits to cut back on the necessary maintenance and operations to preserve affordable housing, creating NYC’s slums during the 1950’s leading to the total deterioration of its vital affordable housing stock.
That was deplorable. It was our nation’s inner city Community Based Organizations (CBOs) of the 1960’s that forced governmental action to rehabilitate our communities’ with vital financial assistance that was sucked out by fleeing landlords and more so by progressive legislation and proactive agency personnel committed to NYC’s future supporting its neighborhoods, it’s communities, and moreover its residents. That was a hard lesson that we will not soon forget.
Mayor Edward I. Koch created an ambitious 10 year $5.1 Billion plan in 1985 converting derelict properties to build and rehabilitate 252,000 low and moderate-income housing units, now viewed as NYC’s affordable housing stock of today was successful because of its private/ public partnership with local community nonprofit housing organizations who advocated, built and now manage this affordable housing resource.
NYC’s public funds were used effectively by its community based nonprofit entities. Economically depressed slums soon became home to hard-working families who rebuilt NYC’s communities of color with a diversity of ethnic flavors catering to its vibrant pulse, becoming great again.
Now, Mayor de Blasio is proposing a $48 Billion Plan geared to Private For Profit Developers to build 250,000 apartments that will rent for more than 75% of household median incomes within communities too poor to be able to afford to participate in his big plans. Not for profit housing groups are not invited to participate based on the high degree of public land being gifted to few developers connected to the Mayor’s administration.
This is a rip off of precious public funds now being offered to the profitable NYC private real estate industry to savor the vibrant healthy communities created by our not for profit CBOs. The premise of all this proposed exorbitant NYC public money and relaxed zoning to create structures three times larger than now, has exacerbated a speculative market that is now way out of control. Proposed government policy has created this awkward economic/ legislative condition – again. What have we learned since WWII? How can we support legislation that is not geared for us and is designed to fail us?
Crain’s Business Week July 5, 2017 1:59 p.m. Updated 07/05/2017
By Joe Anuta
The city has not released adequate information about how much money it has spent on affordable housing three years into the mayor’s plan to build or preserve 200,000 subsidized units, a fiscal watchdog group said last week. While the administration has touted the number of units it has financed, the group said, the missing data make it difficult to tell how much has been spent to accomplish the goal and how much more cash might be needed to finish the job down the road.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his Housing New York plan in 2014 and pledged $41 billion in public and private money over 10 years to make it happen, including $6.7 billion in city capital dollars. However, since that time the administration has not revealed enough information about how it is spending the cash, according to the Citizens Budget Commission. “Without this basic data, whether the mayor’s Housing New York plan is deploying its capital in the most cost-effective way cannot be evaluated,” Sean Campion, a senior research associate at the nonprofit, wrote Friday.
The city typically releases information about how many units it has financed twice a year and includes the total cost of those apartments. The commission, however, wants to see more granular figures to find out whether taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely, and which programs appear to be the most efficient.
The city argued that the best representation of their plan is the number of units and how affordable each one is, and countered that the budget commission never asked the Department of Housing Preservation and Development for the very information the nonprofit says has been kept hidden. “While HPD worked closely to get information to the Citizens Budget Commission over several months, the commission never asked for … project-level funding information, or even which programs projects that have been funded so far used,” says its spokeswoman.
In February de Blasio announced an additional $1.9 billion in city capital dollars designated to make future affordable apartments created through the program even cheaper for low-income New Yorkers. While the city did provide information about which programs are set to receive the money, it did not furnish a per-unit cost breakdown, making it impossible to know how many apartments the money will affect.
“This difficulty reflects a broader concern about the financial transparency of the affordable-housing plan,” Campion wrote. “While the city regularly shares information about the number of units built or preserved to date, it infrequently updates the public on what [it] has spent toward reaching its goal.”
Figures such as per-unit costs are not released publicly, City Hall said, since developers could use the data to their advantage when negotiating on projects.
El Barrio Unite continues massive pressure against the
Rezoning of East Harlem.
Join the East Harlem Warriors
in on the fight!
Do not allow yourself to be pushed out by this Trojan Horse!
CityViews: A Rezoning Trojan Horse for East Harlem
By Roger Hernandez, Jr.
In the ancient tale Aeneid of Virgil from the time of Augustus, an invading force of mercenaries arrived at the gates of Troy in a large wooden horse posed as a gift to gain favor with the residents to enter into and take over the unsuspecting populace.
Today, the Trojan Horse known as the mayor’s Rezoning, MIH and ZQH Plan is posing as a silent gift at East Harlem’s gate. This plan allowing much larger buildings with a tradeoff for unspecified “affordable housing” allowances, targets El Barrio with a publicly financed real-estate builder’s dream of displacing an otherwise unsuspecting poor low income neighborhood.
Mayor de Blasio’s plan for constructing an additional 300,000 apartments for the city’s growing future is hidden under the fact that the NYC’s Homeless population has grown along with the administration’s false promises to provide real affordable housing to NYC’s vulnerable households. The disparity between rich and poor was a highlight of campaign speeches gravitating popular support to the current administration as a compassionate progressive movement.
The mayor’s definition of “affordable housing” is far beyond the grasp of the city’s lower-income communities—especially the general populace of East Harlem, where the majority of residents earn far less than the minimum income of $32,500 necessary to qualify for a unit under his plan.
The East Harlem Rezoning Plan will permit building three times the size (30 stories) allowable without it. Very little of those units will be available to neighborhood households, who are now rent-burdened by the rental-market rise exacerbated by the speculation created by a plan most residents of El Barrio will not be able to afford. Little of the money behind the plan will be allocated to meet the needs of neighborhood households. Beware of Geeks bearing gifts.
East Harlem has been under constant rental pressure since the last rezoning-induced building boom which created an approximate 17,000 apartments, allowing what were once six-story tenement buildings to go up 12 stories in 2003. Many buildings were soon vacated and demolished and reconstructed as modern taller buildings catering to a more affluent influx of gentrifying newcomers. Promised preservation and tenant protections did little to protect the interests of East Harlem’s poor as 11 percent of the African American and 9 percent of East Harlem’s Hispanic population disappeared since the 2003 rezoning changes.
Consequently; the rental market got hotter and rents rose, with more than 50 percent of current residents now rent-burdened and having to pay more than they can otherwise afford to stay and live within their own communities.
The community doesn’t need it, and the community will disappear if it accepts.
Roger is a 1987 MS Urban Affairs Graduate of Hunter College who is a lifelong, 3rd generation resident of the neighborhood, and is coordinating El Barrio Unite opposition to rezoning in East Harlem.