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June 30, 2009 @ 5:15 pm

Crisis and Opportunity: The ongoing tale of politicians and real estate moguls

Photo Credit: pdx3525

It is by now a cliché that every crisis is an opportunity. The Obama administration is using the nation’s multiple crises to transform virtually every aspect of domestic and foreign policy. Whether or not one agrees with the policies, the public is in broad agreement that the president is acting out of what he regards as the country’s best interests.

Regrettably, the crisis-opportunity formula as applied to the city’s perpetual housing crises yields very different results. The crisis is real enough but the opportunities are all about maximizing profits, and entrenching cooperative politicians in office. That’s the real meaning of the public-private partnerships that theoreticians and government officials are fond of talking about. If further proof is needed, we would only point to the transparently bogus claim that “continued leadership in this moment of crisis” requires the mayor and city council members who otherwise would be term limited to serve at least another four years.
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June 29, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

Independence Plaza: “If you can’t tell the truth, at least don’t lie.”

That was the wise advice that Bill Moyer’s father gave him when he took the job as Lyndon Johnson’s press secretary. In New York politics, it would represent a giant ethical leap forward.

The Independence Plaza tenant board has been in office for a number of years. There is a contested election. I headed the tenant board from 2000 to 2004 and resigned shortly after we concluded the negotiations with Laurence Gluck.

From time to time people ask my opinion about various landlord-tenant matters. I always say to them “Thankfully I’m out of the loop.” I’ve experienced first-hand how nasty these tenant fights can be and life is short. Tonight a letter written by the challengers was attached to my door.
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June 19, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

The Middagh Studio Apartments: Another Tale of Political Deception

The Middagh building is now an empty shell with broken windows. Photo Credit: epc

This is the story of the people who lived in the Middagh Street Studio Apartments. When the landlords, politicians and other scoundrels arranged to throw them out of their homes, they never had a chance.
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June 16, 2009 @ 12:02 pm

Janel Towers Residents: Fighting for Affordable Housing

It’s not only the myth-making that surrounds the Bloomberg plan to build new affordable housing that’s so galling, but also the bogus claim of preserving that which already exists. Here’s a video of Janel Towers residents in the Bronx, who are doing what they can to save their own homes.

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May 18, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

Independence Plaza: A Tenant’s Tale

In 2000, I became the tenant president of Independence Plaza, a 3,500-person rental development in Lower Manhattan. Completed in 1974, its three 39-story towers and 48 low-rise buildings overlook the Hudson River. The complex was financed by the federal, state, and city governments under the Mitchell-Lama program, arguably the nation’s most successful affordable housing program. Its residents — those who remain after it was privatized under Bloomberg — are African-American, Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian-American — people of every race, class and ethnicity.

Many lived at Independence Plaza from the time it was first occupied. Most are poor or moderate-income families who moved in because of the cheap rents. The neighborhood didn’t even have a supermarket or public school in those days. A few tenants whose incomes have risen beyond the limits that initially qualified them for an apartment paid surcharges of as much as 50%, still low when compared to the local real estate market.

My wife and I moved to Independence Plaza in the eighties, shortly before the neighborhood became widely known as TriBeCa (the Triangle Below Canal Street). It would soon be one of the hottest real estate markets in the country. Sadly, we’ve watched our neighbors, who raised their families here and whose kids attended the local public schools, replaced mostly by young, white professionals. Often the newcomers double up to share the $5,500 a month rent. It’s easy to tell them apart from the old-timers.
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