See, I don't have to come up with any ideas ... I just stir the pot and get everybody else thinking -- and then I educate myself using their proposals ...
btw: I think we're getting somewhere with this discussion.
See, I don't have to come up with any ideas ... I just stir the pot and get everybody else thinking -- and then I educate myself using their proposals ...
btw: I think we're getting somewhere with this discussion.
By itself, access to health care won’t cure poverty, but it will get you poor people who live longer. Also middle class people who live longer. Maybe get the US out of the disgraceful position of being 47th in life expectancy (think about that !! the world’s “second richest country” and folks in 46 other countries live longer!), despite supposedly having the world’s best doctors and hospitals. Fat lot of good they are if you can’t make use of them.Universal health care through a government plan
*** Basically all euro countries have this. Still poor people, though. Hmmm.
Right, but it’s not primarily teachers’ poverty this measure will cure. It’s the poverty of the badly-educated poor. More pay will mean better people going into teaching, and that means a better educated populace. Harder to be poor if you’re well-educated.Double teacher salaries
*** Teachers are not poor except by historically absurd or relativistic measures.
Big deal. It’s wrong to pay anyone a salary you can’t live on without going homeless. If a person is willing to devote 40 hours a week to your welfare, you owe him a living wage. Anyway, the claim that it reduces employment describes a short-term (and unverified) phenomenon --and one used by heartless plutocrats to justify their parasitic greed. Eventually, they’ll hire someone at the higher wage to wax their Bentley.Double the minimum wage
*** Beyond a very (VERY) low floor, the minimum wage decreases employment.
On second thought, don't double the minimum wage; triple it instead.
That was a cheap shot on my part, but you could finance much of the program out of this one.Stop wasting our tax money and manpower on losing wars
*** OK. You got that one.
Doesn’t have to be like that. Import some Chinese entrepreneurs to run the program for (their) profit and the collateral benefit of the poor.One year’s mandatory public service for all upon completion of their education (high school, college or graduate school.
*** Been there, done that, got the (olive drab) t-shirt. Compulsive manpower always and everywhere = disgustingly wasted manpower / make-work / etc. The 'lump hypothesis' of labor does not attain except in rare exceptions.
Even more computers are key here, and concentration on industries where we excel: bio-engineering, medical research (pour billions into stem cell research), computer programming, marketing, finance, entertainment, spinoff technology from defense industries, space exploration and tourism for profit ...Bet you can think of others.
Yup. Increase median productivity (another whole book there).
They did it in Luxembourg.That won't eliminate poverty, though. In modern economies poverty (as in lack of access to basic housing, health care, food and personal possessions) is almost always the result of very poor, repeated personal choices that are difficult to eradicate completely even with unthinkable levels of compulsion.
(All those $100,000/yr. steelworkers, and they’re still competitive, but you need to be skilful and work hard.)
The key here is to add re-education to education. Not just teach things, but help people unlear bad habits. Every retraining and rehab program does that.
Luxembourg's an easy test case, probably because it's very small. There are other places in the world that have no poverty: Monaco, Bermuda, and, indeed, large pockets of US suburbia. The key is having a small enough population that you can manage.In order to alleviate poverty we have to perpetuate it; otherwise there’s nothing to alleviate.
Our goal should not be to alleviate poverty. Our goal should be to eliminate poverty.
Before someone pipes up with “the poor ye have always”, bear in mind that in Luxembourg they have eradicated poverty completely. Everyone in that country is able to live a decent life.
We can do it too, but we have to want to do it. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
Consider what you would have to do to bring everyone living in poverty in the US up to decent standards. I think the homeless rate is about 1%, so that's at least 3 million people right there - that's more than 6 times Luxembourg's entire population.
I like some of your proposals, others push the envelope of what we can realistically accomplish.
This sums it up for me: we need to get out of the practice of building and maintaining public housing through government spending. A noble idea, perhaps, but long past its decidedly unsuccessful trial period.Originally Posted by NY Sun
When I at first thought about following the Sun's plan, and just giving away the units to the current residents, I couldn't conceive of justifying it. Yes, 400,000 lives would be considerably improved, but how many other hundreds of thousands would miss out because of a few thousand more dollars in yearly income? In essence, it's a game of chance and random bureaucratic benchmark-setting: there are two possible outcomes, with a thin line between a winning hand and a losing one.
Is that fair? "Phooey", people will say: life is not fair, and we have to try to balance the stakes wherever possible. Can't ask for a better balance than to award people what is considered the single most important investment you'll ever make: a home. If done too quickly, it'll have incredibly powerful effects, among which housing in general would probably become more affordable. Think of, furthermore, the possibilities to revamp all these projects, maybe even integrate them into the city, while at the same time building more units. It could even significantly reduce crime.
I think that public housing is a large enough problem to warrant such a radical solution, especially when the potential payoffs are as beneficial as I think they'll be.
May 31, 2009
Up and Out of New York’s Projects
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ and MICHAEL WILSON
RACE YOU Bronxdale Houses became Sonia Sotomayor’s home in 1957, a time of promise in the projects.
WHEN Sonia Sotomayor first set foot in the Bronxdale Houses along Bruckner Boulevard in 1957, they encapsulated New York’s promise. The towers beckoned to the working class as a coveted antidote to some of the city’s unlivable residential spaces and, later on, its unfathomable rents.
These were not the projects of idle, stinky elevators, of gang-controlled stairwells where drug deals go down. In the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, when most of the city’s public housing was built, a sense of pride and community permeated well-kept corridors, apartments and grounds. Far from dangerous, the projects were viewed as nurturing.
There are more than 400,000 residents in the New York City Housing Authority’s 2,611 buildings at any given time. Judge Sotomayor, President Obama’s nominee for the United States Supreme Court, is just one of more than 100 marquee names on a city list of alumni.
Many are athletes or entertainers. Jay-Z, the rapper, grew up in the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn. Wesley Snipes, the actor, in the Monroe Houses in the Bronx. Marc Anthony, the salsa singer, in the Metro North Houses in East Harlem. Mike Tyson and Hector Camacho, the boxers, and a deep bench of basketball players all came up through the projects.
There are congressmen (Gary Ackerman, Eliot L. Engel, Gregory W. Meeks) and chief executives: Lloyd C. Blankfein runs Goldman Sachs, Howard Schultz heads up Starbucks, and Ursula M. Burns, who was named chief executive of Xerox this month, will become the first black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company.
Today, the average income of residents is $22,728, the average rent $324. An estimated 46 percent of families work, 12 percent are on public assistance. Some buildings suffer from neglect, but there are waiting lists to get in.
In a 1999 article in a housing authority publication, Judge Sotomayor recalled celebrating the move by pedaling her tricycle around the “spacious, pristine, white” apartment — right into a wall, leaving an unmistakable black mark. Petrified, 3-year-old Sonia hid under the bed for two hours. “Marring that wall was the single most traumatic event of my childhood,” she was quoted as saying. LIZETTE ALVAREZ
IT was fewer than 100 blocks from their shared apartment in Harlem to the Dyckman Houses in Inwood, but for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and his mother and father, who made the move in 1950, it “was really considered a step up,” he recalled in an interview last week. “We had two bedrooms — for us. We didn’t have to share the kitchen or the bathroom.”
Mr. Abdul-Jabbar, 62, then known as Lew Alcindor, spent his childhood in Building 3 on the fifth floor, leaving the complex only after the University of California lured him west.
Home reverberated with the round-the-clock clatter of the El and the sounds of his father, a transit officer who had gone to Juilliard, playing trombone and piano. From their windows, the family could see the Cloisters rising in the distance.
Doors were kept unlocked as kids bounced from one apartment to the next on rainy Saturdays to watch Laurel and Hardy and Hopalong Cassidy on television. People did the right thing, or “they could force you to leave,” he said. “When kids played on the grass, their parents would get a warning. Friends of mine got spanked sitting on the grass.”
The real bonding took place in Dyckman Park, now called Monsignor Kett Playground, over stickball and stoopball, tag and ringolevio, handball and touch football — “every game imaginable,” Mr. Abdul-Jabbar recalled.
One afternoon, his father took him to the Dyckman courts for an introduction to basketball. “He abused me with his elbow and he said, ‘This is a rough game,’ ” Mr. Abdul-Jabbar said. “I wised up quick and didn’t go there with my dad anymore.”
It was on that slab of concrete that young Lew made his first dunk, in eighth grade, after two years of dogged practice, he said. Not even deep winter kept him and his friends from playing three-on-three, horse and 21. When the court was crusted with ice, they got the park attendant to lend them an “implement” to chop it up and clear it out.
The seven-building complex teemed with immigrants who mixed easily, but outside its walls there were different rules. “North of Dyckman Street was Irish, south of Dyckman was Jewish,” Mr. Abdul-Jabbar remembered. “From the sixth grade on, there was friction with the Irish kids and the kids in the project. The Irish kids looked down on us.”
His mother followed him along the sidewalk through Irish territory to school. When the project kids walked to Little League, “we would meet at a predetermined spot and go as a group,” he said. “That kind of kept the Irish kids at bay.”
It was only a few blocks to St. Jude, the parochial school where he refined his basketball skills. The school harbors some of his best memories. And one of his worst.
A commotion drew his attention out the window of his second-grade classroom. It was Willie Mays, playing stickball with young Lew’s friends. The teacher would not let him out.
“Baseball meant nothing to her,” he said, still incredulous. “By the time I got there, he was gone. I hate her to this day.”
Her name, he said without pause despite the half-century gone by, was Gertrude Doyle. LIZETTE ALVAREZ
Games and Cigarettes
“Tom Sawyer in Converse sneakers.”
That’s how Richard Price, 59, author of “Clockers” and “Lush Life,” described his years in the Parkside Houses in the Bronx, from age 1 — when his parents were finally able to move out of his mother’s childhood bedroom — to 18. The bleakness of the Baltimore projects depicted in the HBO series “The Wire,” for which Mr. Price wrote several episodes, is absent from his memories of cheery, chaotic play.
“It was a very functional, blue-collar world,” Mr. Price said. “It did not have the connotation of public housing that public housing has now. All the families were intact. All the fathers were employed.”
Every apartment seemed to have children. “Everybody would sit on a bench and sort of bellow up for people to come down,” he said. “I played handball mostly, one-wall handball. Basketball was more of a big-ticket thing to do. There was touch football on the basketball courts, sometimes at the same time there were basketball games going on.”
All the kids disappeared at the same time for dinner. At the Price apartment, the television was always on and the meal usually came out of a can or two.
“The drink of the evening was soda,” he said. “I don’t know anyone who ever had wine on the table. Everybody was watching ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show.’ The conversation consisted of my mother yelling at us and my father saying, ‘Leave the kids alone.’ ”
Tuesday was his mother’s night to entertain. “I’d go to sleep to the sound of mah-jongg tiles,” he said. “And smoking and coughing.”
Friday nights belonged to Dad, a cabdriver and window dresser. “All I heard was the riffle of a poker deck. It was the same, laughing and cigarette smoke.”
Mr. Price looks back in disbelief at the opportunities for early death by his own doing, starting on the roof.
“The big stupid thing was trying to stay on the outside of the guardrail and get to the next building; that could still wake me up in the middle of the night,” he said. “We also knew how to stop the elevators in between floors and get under the elevator in the elevator shaft. The point of which was, I have no idea. Danger for dummies.”
Rising to a Corporate Perch
It was not all hopscotch-and-shaved-ice idylls. The Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side, where the morning sun was striped by the Williamsburg Bridge and the cries of children lost beneath the roar of elevated trains, opened in 1953 amid dirty alleys and half-demolished buildings. Born in 1958, Ursula M. Burns, was not yet 3 when a group of five teenagers shot and killed a 76-year-old man in the project for $2.60.
“There were lots of Jewish immigrants, fewer Hispanics and African-Americans,” Ms. Burns said in a 2003 interview with The New York Times, “but the common denominator and great equalizer was poverty.”
Ms. Burns, who was named this month as the next chief executive of Xerox, 28 years after joining the company for a summer internship, was traveling overseas last week and unavailable for an interview. She has looked back fondly on growing up on Delancey Street, where her mother, Olga, raised three children alone, taking in laundry and other people’s children for day care.
At Cathedral High School, an all-girls Catholic school on East 56th Street, Ursula excelled in math and made friends.
“Not too many girls mentioned that they lived in projects, because it was on the lower scale,” said Vilma L. Aponte, who graduated with Ms. Burns in the class of 1976 and now lives in Fort Lauderdale. “When people got off the train at a certain spot, you sort of know where they’re going.”
Another classmate, Sonia Y. Devarie, who also grew up in public housing, said the girls spent their lunch breaks in homeroom escaping into the faraway world on “All My Children.”
“Where you are is not who you are,” Ms. Burns said in a 2004 interview with a Rochester newspaper. “We lived in a place where some people thought there was limited opportunity. We never thought that.” MICHAEL WILSON
Be polite. That was a cardinal rule in the 1950s and 1960s at the Elliott-Chelsea Houses in Manhattan. The tricky part was doing it in Ukrainian, Polish or Spanish, depending on which door you knocked on.
“People were from Latvia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Africa., From everywhere,” said Whoopi Goldberg, 53, the actress and comedian who now is a co-host of the television talk show “The View.” “So you had to be able to say things like, ‘Hello, I’m so and so,’ and ‘May I use the bathroom?’ in every language.”
Before Caryn Elaine Johnson became Whoopi Goldberg, she spent 19 years on the sixth floor of the Chelsea Houses, as it was then known, with her mother, a practical nurse and Head Start teacher, and her older brother. Their two-bedroom place was immaculate — “in case the president came by,” Ms. Goldberg said her mother told her — with the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix competing for wall space with the era’s ubiquitous black velvet clown paintings.
The building bustled with working-class families. Elevators and hallways were clean. Fights were settled mostly with fists. People were proud, but not so proud they refused a hand when they needed it.
“You were never ashamed to bring people home,” Ms. Goldberg said. “We didn’t know we weren’t supposed to do well. We were being taught by our parents that we had it as good as we had it, and we could make it better. People who didn’t have it good were living in the streets, in squalor.”
Out front, children swarmed, clapping out “Miss Mary Mack,” dodging the Double Dutch rope, choosing sides to play ringolevio. Like today, sprinklers cut loose and hydrants poured out in summer. Mister Softee drew the biggest crowds.
Parents were never visible but always present.
“They had eyeballs in the building,” Ms. Goldberg said. “You would look up and see the curtains drawn. But on the stones up in the back there, the eyeballs were looking at you. Someone, somehow, was seeing you.”
The Chelsea Houses of her memory stand in direct contrast to the portrait of urban menace evoked by the word “project” today. “Whenever you look at television or movies, they have these projects there — where elevators don’t work and where things fall apart and where things are in the toilet,” Ms. Goldberg said. “That’s not how I grew up. There has always been great pride in being able to have a place of your own and take care of it. People I grew up with felt the same way.” LIZETTE ALVAREZ
July 4, 2009
In Public Housing, Talking Up the Recycling Bin
By MIREYA NAVARRO
Wearing a purple sweatsuit and leaning on a cane, Gloria Allen, 82, was hobbling down a hallway in a public housing project in Morningside Heights, knocking on doors and shouting, “Recycling education!”
There was no answer at the next apartment, but as soon as she detected movement inside, Ms. Allen, a retired printing-company worker, began her pitch.
“Please come out, baby,” she purred. “Please come out so we can educate you on how to recycle.”
The typical neighborhood environmentalist is often pictured as young and affluent, the kind of person who can afford a hybrid car and screen-printed hemp fabrics. But at General Grant Houses, a sprawling public housing development off West 125th Street in Manhattan, the eco-conscious are mainly people like Ms. Allen and Sarah Martin, who as leaders of the residents’ association fret as much about backed-up pipes as they do about recycling.
Proselytizing on the issue in housing projects is an enormous challenge but crucial, environmentalists say, given the incentive to cut back on energy and garbage disposal costs and a housing authority’s power to impose recycling rules building by building.
In New York, the incentive may be greatest of all. Only 17 percent of the city’s household waste makes it into recycling bins, and New York has the largest public housing system in the country, with 2,600 buildings, 174,000 apartments and more than 400,000 residents in five boroughs.
Yet the effort initiated by Ms. Allen and Ms. Martin originated as a grass-roots crusade of their own.
Margarita Lopez, the city housing agency’s environmental coordinator, said that residents who step up and organize the efforts defy cynical clichés about public housing. “There are people who think we’re not able to do this, who look at public housing as second-class citizens,” she said. “People would be surprised about how in tune the residents are.”
Polls show that concern about the environment is sometimes broadest in low-income communities because residents bear the brunt of problems like air pollution.
Ms. Allen and Ms. Martin say they see recycling as a way to address the health and quality-of-life issues associated with trash, including the emissions from abundant garbage-truck pickups.
“If we could reduce the amount of garbage in our community, it would reduce the diesel in the air,” said Ms. Martin, 72, a former medical assistant and school food preparation manager who wears hoop earrings under a baseball cap.
So she and Ms. Allen, who each live alone but have 6 children, 14 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren between them, have taken time from their full plate of tenant complaints to introduce, or reintroduce, the development’s 4,500 denizens to recycling, building by building.
While recycling is required by law, it had failed to take root at General Grant because the bins were not conveniently located and residents found it easy to ignore recycling signs, the women say.
Education is crucial, they insist, so they recruit volunteers and train them in which kinds of metal, glass and plastic items can be recycled. Then they guide them from door to door, distributing color-coded bags as they impart the fundamentals to neighbors who can be welcoming, indifferent or hostile.
“It’s not easy,” Ms. Martin said. “It’s not like you slap a flier on a door and say: ‘Recycle. It’s the law.’ It takes time, patience and energy.”
Some residents refuse to budge when Ms. Allen and Ms. Martin knock. And some object to their campaign. During one of their rounds, they were berated by a neighbor who insisted that recycling bins would attract vermin and should not be placed in front of the buildings.
“People are going to put garbage in there,” the neighbor warned.
But many readily embrace the effort. “This saves public housing work and money and it contributes to the general hygiene,” said Jose Morales, 51, an unemployed plumber and widower with two children who correctly chose a green recycling bag when Ms. Allen tested him with a flattened cereal box.
On other environmental fronts, efforts are under way by the city housing authority to make the apartment units more energy-efficient, using federal stimulus money to replace old boilers, water heaters and appliances. More than two dozen resident “green committees” have also been formed to help with projects like planting trees and recruiting workers for green jobs.
The recycling project at General Grant Houses got under way in 2007 under the auspices of the Morningside Heights/West Harlem Sanitation Coalition, a partnership that was founded in 1994 when residents of Grant and nearby co-ops realized they shared the same problems, from uneven trash collection to substandard grocery stores.
Ms. Martin and Joan Levine, an 80-year-old former teacher from Morningside Gardens, a six-building co-op just across the street on Amsterdam Avenue, are the coalition’s co-chairwomen.
Ms. Levine, who wears her gray hair in a Beatles bob and carries a handbag made of recycled juice box labels, said she was motivated partly by a resolve to confound stereotypes. “I’ve heard comfortable white middle-class people say, ‘Oh, public housing. They’ll never recycle. They don’t care,’ ” she said. “That really galled me because that wasn’t the case.”
Two years into the recycling program, General Grant Houses has five buildings down, one in training and three more to go. It has also evolved from a grass-roots effort into a pilot program with city and state financing that the city housing authority plans to expand to other residential projects.
Ms. Martin and Ms. Allen report promising results in the five buildings that are already recycling. Each now produces at least 10 fewer bags of trash a day, they said. Residents no longer leave mousetraps or car tires in recycling bins, as they did in the past when the city instituted recycling without an education program.
As president and vice president of the residents’ association, the two women also organize collections of electronic waste, from computers to TV sets, and lead workshops on topics like nontoxic cleaning products. Next on their agenda is finding a way to pay a stipend to resident monitors who will make sure that only recyclables go into the bins.
While they have to plead with the city to fix broken door locks and drafty windows, Ms. Martin said, “recycling we can control.”
“We don’t need to have a million dollars to do that and improve our environment,” she said.
This is beyond all reason and common sense. What about the "rights" of other tenants .
Who is supposed to be responsible ."We have to follow the law and respect the rights of the tenant," Housing Authority spokeswoman Lynn Godfrey said late yesterday.
Cops find man isn't dead, just a slob"Everybody kept saying, 'We don't deal with that' and told me I had to call somebody else," he said.
BY Jonathan Lemire and Bill Egbert
September 8th 2009
Ray West stands next to neighbor Ming Li Sung's trash-filled flat
in Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City, Queens.
The awful stench coming from a Queens apartment on Monday was so bad that cops thought they would find a body inside.
But when firefighters busted down the the door, they found tenant Ming Li Sung was very much alive - and living with rotting garbage piled floor to ceiling.
"When they started trying to clear away some of the trash to get in, he popped up inside, yelling, 'Get out! Get out!'" said Ray West, who lives across the hall.
Cops first noticed the horrible smell when they were called to the Ravenswood Houses in Long Island City in the early morning for a domestic dispute.
"They thought he was DOA," said West.
The apartment looked like a landfill, with trash jammed top to bottom and pressing up against the flat's front door and rear window.
A broken fan, an old watering can and scores of sodden plastic grocery bags stuffed with wet garbage could be seen among the detritus.
When an FDNY haz-mat team arrived to start excavating the garbage, an army of cockroaches poured out into the second-floor hallway, West said.
"The police were throwing up," West said.
Sung, 69, was taken to Elmhurst Hospital Center for psychiatric evaluation, police said. He does not face any charges.
Sung's next-door neighbors have moved out because of the smell, which had been a problem for years, West said. He and his wife, Robin McNeil, are still on a long waiting list for a transfer.
"We're stuck here," said West, a veteran who returned just over a year ago from 18 months fighting in Afghanistan, only to spend his time fighting city bureaucrats over the rancid stench.
West said he called 311, the city Housing Authority and even the Health Department to complain, but he kept getting bounced from agency to agency.
"Everybody kept saying, 'We don't deal with that' and told me I had to call somebody else," he said.
Social workers would visit, but Sung wouldn't answer the door. A year ago the city took some action, according to West, but to little effect.
"They took him to Bellevue to get evaluated," West said, "but then they sent him back here."
The Housing Authority never made a serious effort to clean out the rotting refuse, said McNeil, who has lived at Ravenswood Houses for six years. Sometimes conditions were so bad that dead flies would accumulate on the hallway floor.
"All Housing would do was come and sweep them up," McNeil said.
McNeil was pregnant with twins - the couple's first children - but she miscarried in May. West thinks the overwhelming stench and the stress may have played a role.
"We have to follow the law and respect the rights of the tenant," Housing Authority spokeswoman Lynn Godfrey said late yesterday. She added: "We have a crew out there now to tackle the situation."
October 1st 2009
At the dedication in 1935.
Construction in September 1935
When Col. John Astor IV went down with the Titanic in April 1912, most of the family's New York City properties passed into the hands of the colonel's son Vincent, who recognized that a lot of them were dark old tenement slums and was happy to unload them.
Indeed, so ratty was a row of ancient Astor buildings on E. 3rd St. between First Ave. and Avenue A that they were at the very top of the progressive slum-clearance agenda outlined by the New York City Housing Authority created by reform-minded Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia when he arrived at City Hall in 1934. Upon this onetime Astor block swiftly arose the nation's first public housing project – First Houses, it was called – much financed by President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal dollars and built by Roosevelt's federal relief workers. Critics called it a huge boondoggle.
LaGuardia quite agreed.
"We're proud of that," he said, saluting First Houses as the model for all low-cost public housing to come. When the sunny new units were finished in December 1935, 120 hard-pressed families moved in, effusive with gratitude.
Decades later, many of them were still there, complaining that their monthly rent had skyrocketed from $24 to $28.
Celebrating public housing where it first got started, at First Houses
Hard Times in the Projects, an article from Gotham Gazette that includes the First Houses.
Before: A view of the backyard at First Houses prior to the construction.
After: The back of First Houses as workers put on the finishing touches.New York Housing Authority page
New Push to Fully Fund New York City's Public Housing
November 6th 2009
For years, New York City's public housing residents have watched as community centers closed, repairs were neglected and staff was laid off. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) says it has had little choice, as it copes with drastic cuts in government funding. Last night, state lawmakers led the kickoff of a new campaign to restore city and state money to the city's public housing system, the largest in the nation.
Public housing residents met with the lawmakers, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh at the Grand Street Settlement on Pitt Street. Kavanagh and Squadron have helped assemble a large coalition, including more than 75 elected officials and organizations like Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). They're calling the effort the SOUND Campaign- Save Our Underfunded NYCHA Developments. Several of the coalition partners were on hand last night, including representatives of Councilmember Rosie Mendez, Councilmember-elect Margaret Chin, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer. The coalition is calling on the city and state to:
- Fully fund $64 million for State-built developments
- Fully fund $30 million for City-built developments;
- Stop requiring NYCHA to pay more than $70 million for police and sanitation services
- Invest $100 million from the Federal stimulus package in weatherization of NYCHA developments.
Days before returning to Albany to deal with the state's $3 billion budget crisis, the lawmakers conceded it's a tough time to be asking either the state or the city for money. But Kavanagh said, as budget negotiations proceed, funding for public housing "has to be part of the equation." Zach Bommer, representing Speaker Silver, said, at the very least, they're determined to keep additional NYCHA cuts off the table.
One of the main messages last night was that elected officials cannot fight the battle for funding alone. They're looking for many of the half-million NYC public housing residents to join the campaign. Squadron asked, "Will you stay with us (for as long as it takes)?" Squadron and Kavanagh said many of the problems at NYCHA are not about money, but they argued that restoring full funding is a necessary first step. If the city and state come forward with the funds, they suggested, it will be far easier to push NYCHA to make improvements to New York's 343 housing developments.
The coalition is planning a rally at City Hall next Thursday at 11am.
Are they serious? Between the city and state, it's hard to tell who's more broke! Recession means falling apt prices; why don't people do it the way humankind always has and either get a job or move where their salary can cover rent, given that there're already cut-backs in education, transportation, pension, health, etc. etc. spending?
People have responded to failing societies in other stronger ways than the two you mention.
Impatience Grows Over Vacancy Rate in Public Housing
By MANNY FERNANDEZ
Nearly 1,000 units at the Ingersoll Houses and the adjacent
Whitman Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, are vacant.
When it comes to low-cost housing in New York City, demand far exceeds supply. But the city’s public housing agency is being criticized for having too much of one and making too little use of the other: Thousands of its apartments are vacant, even as more than 130,000 families wait for months and often years on its official waiting list.
The agency, the New York City Housing Authority, said that nearly 3,300 out of a total of 178,000 apartments were vacant units taken off the rent rolls for a variety of reasons, including renovations, lead paint removal and use as office space for the police and other services. In a city with a shortage of apartments affordable to low-income families, the number of vacant units has outraged some elected officials and tenant advocates. At two public housing complexes in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, 923 units sit unoccupied, the vast majority because of a long-delayed modernization project.
“We’re in the midst of a massive recession, and it just seems unbelievable to me that we are sitting on thousands of affordable housing units that people can’t use,” said Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. “I believe this is a total and complete crisis in the Housing Authority. The inability to rehabilitate and get affordable apartments to people on the waiting list flies in the face of what public housing is about.”
Mr. Stringer said he wanted the authority to provide him with a detailed tally of the vacant units in Manhattan and the agency’s plan for repairing and renting unoccupied apartments. Mr. Stringer and others have complained for years that the large number of vacancies has caused the financially struggling agency to lose millions of dollars annually in rental income.
Lynn Godfrey, an agency spokeswoman, said the authority had reduced the number of vacant units in recent years. In November 2007, there were 6,545 vacant units off the rent rolls, and in November 2009, there were 3,298. Of those nearly 3,300 apartments, a large number — 1,790 — are undergoing and awaiting renovations, Ms. Godfrey said, while 438 are being used as office space for tenant associations, police officers and health services.
“Vacancies are a concern for us,” Ms. Godfrey said. “We’re making the best efforts to address them, and hence you see the reduction over the two-year period. Our priority is to minimize vacancies.”
City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez of Manhattan, the chairwoman of the Council’s Public Housing Subcommittee, said that although the 3,300 number seemed large, it should be kept in context. The agency, with 178,000 apartments in 2,600 buildings in 336 complexes, is the city’s biggest landlord and the largest public housing authority in the country. The 3,300 vacant units amount to 1.8 percent of the total number of apartments.
“There is a normal percentage of vacant units,” Ms. Mendez said. “It seems like the percentage is more or less right.”
The length of time units have been vacant has also been a concern for many people. A 2006 report by the city comptroller, William C. Thompson Jr., found that 2,100 apartments that were taken off the rent rolls for renovations at seven public housing complexes were vacant for an average of three years and four months. At the two complexes in Fort Greene, the Ingersoll Houses and Whitman Houses, the agency says that empty apartments awaiting renovations have been vacant for an average of four years.
“It seems so wasteful,” said Judith Goldiner, a supervising attorney at the Legal Aid Society, which provides free legal representation to public housing tenants. “I know construction is complicated and these are big projects. I just think that holding apartments off the rent roll for a long period of time is bad, especially when we have such a need for affordable housing.”
Renovation Delays Leave a Ghost-Town Feel
By SEWELL CHAN
While more than 130,000 families are on the waiting list for a city public housing apartment, hundreds of units at the Ingersoll Houses and the adjacent Whitman Houses in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, are vacant — 923 out of nearly 3,500 units, according to the landlord, the New York City Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency. A majority are unoccupied because of a costly, long-delayed modernization project that has forced hundreds of tenants to relocate and has fueled rumors, repeatedly denied by the agency, that low-income residents are being pushed out to convert the buildings into private luxury housing as Fort Greene gentrifies.
Anxiety remains high at Whitman and Ingersoll, tenants, elected officials and community advocates said, because unoccupied units have been used by drug dealers, vandals and squatters, and so many apartments have sat empty for so long. Apartments awaiting renovations at both complexes have been vacant for an average of four years, according to the housing agency.