Opinion: See no evil

By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders

As you drive into New York City across the George Washington Bridge and then south down the West Side Highway you can see huge cranes and glittering new buildings being built. You can be sure that these constructions are for the very well off and not middle income residents.

A tale of two cities indeed.

In part, Bill de Blasio was elected mayor because he promised to do better than his recent predecessors on the matter of decent affordable housing. During his 2013 campaign de Blasio vowed to create some 200,000 units during his two terms. He is way behind schedule. In fact when one calculates the loss of rent-regulated housing each year at about 10,000 units, NYC has made little progress during the mayor’s entire first term of office.

And then there is the New York City federally funded Housing Authority.

NYCHA is public housing reserved for those persons or families with low incomes. But just because you may be poor doesn’t mean you should be neglected.

That is probably a phrase that candidate de Blasio would have uttered during his campaigns. But as they say, talk is cheap.

Last year it was revealed that NYCHA failed to do required annual inspections and subsequent corrective actions for lead based paint. Worse still, NYCHA officials lied about it and covered up the neglect.

It has been common scientific and medical knowledge for decades that when ingested especially by children, lead will cause all kinds of health problems including mental retardation, learning disabilities as well as serious physical ailments.

Nonetheless the de Blasio administration knowing about these serious lapses in inspections looked the other way, did nothing about it for years, and kept placing families into potentially toxic environments. Only now are they owning up to this deceit. And just this week the city comptroller reported that NYCHA management has not done adequate planning to upgrade boilers and hot water heaters for their apartments in a number of projects during this frigid winter, leading to serious heat outages. And City Hall is either unaware or unconcerned about this.

Our homeless population has increased during de Blasio’s time as mayor, resulting in the largest shelter census in history. Many of the shelters continue to be deplorable, unsafe and unsanitary places. It is little wonder that so many unfortunate people choose to live on the streets rather than in an NYC shelter.

There is little evidence to suggest that these problems have improved during the de Blasio tenure.

Meanwhile, the mayor indicates that he will not be home as much in these next few years. Instead he will be traveling to support progressive causes and candidates around the country. Better if he were to keep his attention on his constituents in his own backyard in need of his help.

When Bill de Blasio was first sworn in as mayor four years ago and later moved into Gracie Mansion, the fences surrounding the residence were raised to above eye level. One must wonder whether that has obscured the mayor’s vision and kept him from seeing what is actually happening on the streets of New York City.

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One thought on “Opinion: See no evil

  1. Well, what Steve Sanders writes here is the truth. The 420-A program was been used to the benefit of luxury developers and just as the IBO has indicated, numbers of housing preserved have been exaggerated. In addition, all the rezoning is and will cause prices and values to rise. Much of this has to do with the mayor who clearly is planning a run at higher office. Possibly the presidency.

    But all this is day late & a dollar short. During the primary Sal Albanese offered a real counter to deBlasio but the party regulars didn’t get behind him.

    Republicans don’t advocate for anything that would lead to affordable housing. Turning to them for answers would only make things worse. But Democrats have been letting down constituents for years.

    Vacancy decontrol and increase allowances were pushed by speaker Pete Vallone. Free market advocacy and high RGB increases pushed under Bloomberg. And also what Steve Sanders points out about deBlasio.

    But most people don’t see all this as part of an overall issue. Most times it boils down to ‘what is affecting me’.

    As pointed out before, in our district above 34th Street most residents are co-op/condo owners. Below 34th, Waterside settlement tenants have already gone to court & lost. Little can be done for them. 50% of STPCV residents are already paying affordable rents. Of the other 50%, many are students or internationals who don’t or can’t vote.

    So while I agree with what Steve Sanders says, within our district, rental affordability is really a phantom issue. Pols like to talk about if, but most of the people here aren’t going to care enough about it except when it comes to MCIs.

    What I have heard people talk about across the district is the loss of small businesses. The more upscale building that keeps on here, the more commercial landlords will feel they should get more in rent…because more upscale people are moving in who can pay more. So small businesses are getting forced out and can only be replaced by businesses or pricing that are affordable to the newer residents.

    There is no rent stabilization for commercial property (although at one debate for council, a resident asked…why is rent stabilization for tenants constitutional but not constitutional for commercial property? Would like to hear that one debated.

    Whether it’s the SBJSA or something else quite substantial, support for small business is something I think the district would get behind.

    But any such movement would really intensify the situation between Democrats and the NYC Real Estate industry…and that relationship is what has really been at the core of why Democrats have not been delivering much on affordable anything.

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