Thursday, January 21, 2016

Activists protest de Blasio, Mark-Viverito, Van Bramer at REBNY Gala

Protesters against de Blasio outside REBNY "A Tale of Two Cities" Gala at Midtown Sheraton

New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer support Mayor de Blasio's gentrification plans that are responsible for displacement of working families and the endless upward spiral in rent costs.


City Comptroller, Department of Investigation mum on controversial NYCHA sale (Progress Queens)

A lack of democracy in New York City's land use process (Progress Queens)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

de Blasio has allowed real estate developers to game land use in New York City

The Affordability Scam : de Blasio calls $1,900 rent on a Crown Heights, Brooklyn studio affordable

A lack of democracy in New York City's land use process

Activist Alicia Boyd on NYC's Community Board System :  ''It's a lie anyway.''

"It's a lie anyway."

To some progressive activists, seeing Mayor Bill de Blasio’s land-lease proposal to construct buildings on the property of the New York City Housing Authority following so closely on the sale of several NYCHA Section 8 buildings, with plans for further expansion of land-lease opportunities on NYCHA lands, amounts to a full-throttle assault to privatize large parts of NYCHA, essentially opening the floodgates for private real estate developers to stampede toward a land rush of city real property in exchange for the administration receiving credit for the construction a miniscule number of new affordable housing units. It seems like a huge price to pay for perhaps constructing an initial 500 new affordable housing units within a larger goal of creating 80,000 units over a ten-year span.

These and other major city land use decisions are not being made with prior public input, much less without a specific mandate from voters.

Although more and more tenants and activists are recognizing Mayor de Blasio’s pro-real estate agenda, what is missing is tenant and activist consensus about what to do about this. Some activists have been fighting the sale of public library branches to real estate developers, thinking that each sale is a singular transaction, independent onto itself, and not part of a larger, pro-real estate agenda by the de Blasio administration. Activists think that if they can just defeat the sale of one library, then the larger cause can be won. Efforts by developers and city planning officials to subject small fights to the arduous ULURP process, while sidestepping larger projects, has the impact of narrowing activists’ focus at the same time that they can be worn down.

About the role of Community Boards in allowing the public to participate in New York City's land use process, the Brooklyn tenant activist Alicia Boyd said, “It’s a lie, anyway, but we know politically that the political machine needs that lie .... They need the lie. They need the lie, so that the people will not stand up and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute ! That means that we have no power ? There’s no democracy here ?’ They need the lie.”

As activists look to hold the administration accountable to activists’ expectations for a course for a post-Occupy Wall Street city that was not aligned with big business, there are many issues to consider. Firstly, how do activists plan to educate each other on a complete and accurate picture of how much of the political landscape in the de Blasio administration has been influenced by the real estate industry ? Secondly, will activists reject Mayor de Blasio’s incremental and inadequate remedy to the affordable housing crisis, and, if so, what can the community demand in its place ? And thirdly, what should be done about the veal pen nonprofit groups, which willingly deëscalate calls for political, social, and economic reform, based on the messaging emanating from City Hall ? Other issues undoubtedly also exist, but organizing cannot take shape about where we want to go as a city until everybody first agrees on what is actually happening now.


A Special Investigation : A lack of democracy in New York City's land use process (Progress Queens)

Saturday, May 23, 2015

NYC nonprofit groups say they are fighting to end 421a tax breaks. Can we believe them ?

421a tax breaks

With about three weeks to go before the New York State legislature decides what to do with the 421-a tax breaks for developers, which are set to expire on June 15, government reform activists are waiting to see if an array of nonprofit groups advocating for an end to the scandal-tarnished tax abatement program will stay true to their word.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Is Bill de Blasio coördinating with Hillary Clinton's 2016 POTUS campaign ?

de Blasio's non-endorsement of Hillary Clinton

Not Ready for Hillary Clinton

Possible coördination ?

The decision by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D-New York City) to refuse to endorse former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign triggered lurid tabloid covers, including one in The New York Daily News with the headline, “Stabbed in de Back !”

The political fallout from the non-endorsement has ranged from one of portraying Mayor de Blasio as having acted traitorously to calculating.

On The New York Times Close-Up news magazine broadcast on NY1, The New York Times editorial board member Eleanor Randloph said she had a difficult time believing that the non-endorsement had not been orchestrated with the Clinton campaign, giving Mayor de Blasio time to deliver support from the political Left to the Clinton campaign at the right time.

It was not referenced by Ms. Randolph, but, in the lead up to the 2013 New York gubernatorial election, Mayor de Blasio worked behind the scenes to strong arm the Working Families Party to endorse the neoliberal incumbent, Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-New York), even though Governor Cuomo had been waged an unrelenting attack on the poor by making cuts to Medicaid and closing hospitals, and, lately, threatening to undermine public education.


Week in Review : de Blasio's non-endorsement of Hillary Clinton ; Preet Bharara's upcoming speech (Progress Queens)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Bill de Blasio's war on public housing

Cash-strapped NYCHA sold apartment buildings that had been recently refurbished

NYCHA claimed that it needed to sell 900 Section 8 apartments, because it could no longer afford to maintain them.

However, a Progress Queens investigation has revealed that four buildings that were sold were recently refurbished by NYCHA, seemingly refuting claims that these buildings were too dilapidated for NYCHA to maintain.

1780 and 1782 Madison Avenue, Manhattan - Sold by NYCHA photo Google Street View - 1780 Madison Avenue - Manhattan Screen Shot600_zpsycoeop1c.jpg

Before NYCHA sold the buildings 1780 and 1782 Madison Avenue in Manhattan to private real estate developers, the city housing agency spent an unknown amount of money making unspecified refurbishing or repairs to the buildings.

930 Halsey Street, Brooklyn - Sold by NYCHA photo Google Street View 930 Halsey Street - Brooklyn 2014-sept Google Earth-Screen Shot600_zpsdnp5ikyr.jpg

Before NYCHA sold the building at 903 Halsey Street in Brooklyn to private real estate developers, the city housing agency spent an unknown amount of money making unspecified refurbishing or repairs to the buildings.

55 Saratoga Avenue, Brooklyn - Sold by NYCHA photo Google Street View 55 Saratoga Avenue - Brooklyn 2014-sept Google Earth-Screen Shot600_zpsp19gpvmd.jpg

Before NYCHA sold the building at 55 Saratoga Avenue in Brooklyn to private real estate developers, the city housing agency spent an unknown amount of money making unspecified refurbishing or repairs to the buildings.

Conflicts of Interest : Administration officials were either paid to lobbying in support of the sale of approximately 900 NYCHA Section 8 apartments, or else they had prior relationships with some of the developers.

A controversial structured finance transaction originated by the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, to create a special purpose vehicle to offload some Section 8 buildings to private developers is coming into greater view, according to an analysis by Progress Queens.

The portfolio of project-based, Section 8 buildings that NYCHA sold to a consortium of private investors named Triborough Preservation LLC included four buildings that had recently been refurbished. The portfolio of buildings that were sold were situated in neighborhoods, where there was a great potential for real estate value appreciation due to recent trends in gentrification, begging the question whether real estate developers had cherry-picked some of the best properties amongst NYCHA's roster of buildings.

Two principal de Blasio administration housing officials, Gary Rodney and Vicki Been, have had prior close ties to two of the developers in the consortium, BFC Partners, L.P., and L&M Development Partners, Inc., respectively. A third de Blasio administration official, Jonathan Greenspun, who serves as a commission on the city's Commission on Human Rights, was a lobbyist for BFC Partners, L.P.

Administration officials defended the controversial sale by arguing that NYCHA did not have the financial resources to maintain the dilapidated buildings. However, as documented in archival photographs published by Google Street View, four of the buildings had had scaffolding encircling the buildings, with one photograph showing workmen suspended along the front of one building doing exterior construction or repair work.

Some government reform activists told Progress Queens that the de Blasio administration disenfranchised taxpayers and NYCHA tenants by sidestepping the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, or the ULURP process, when it sanctioned NYCHA’s sale of the properties. According to one source, a lawyer with expertise in city legislation, Section 197-c of the City Charter requires that any disposition of city real property must be made through the ULURP process.

City housing officials have suggested that they may seek to sell other NYCHA buildings in order to offload the responsibility of upkeep and maintenance for the buildings, a potential backdoor for for-profit real estate developers to raise the rents on tenants living in public housing.

According to a reading of some of the transaction agreements, the city conveyed rights to the consortium of developers to building residential and non-residential units on developable land that was also sold along with the project-based, Section 8 buildings.

Officials with NYCHA, City Hall, and the developers, who bought the Section 8 apartments, declined to answer questions about the transaction in time before the publication of Progress Queens report.


Cash-strapped NYCHA sold apartment buildings that had been recently refurbished (Progress Queens)

Councilmember Torres : A public housing puppet on REBNY's strings (Progress Queens)

Activists worry that de Blasio administration will keep selling NYCHA to developers, undermining regulated rents (Progress Queens)