Bronx Beep Holds Hearing on Mayor’s Inclusionary Housing Plan

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Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Marc Fader

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., scheduled a public hearing for Thursday on Mayor de Blasio’s two major citywide zoning proposals—one to change height and setback regulations to permit more density, the other to require affordable housing when neighborhoods are upzoned.

As City Limits has reported, both proposals have generated some controversy at the community-board level. Now Diaz, who has boosted development in the Bronx but also clashed with de Blasio recently, is preparing to weigh in.

“My office is not required to host this hearing, but we concluded it was necessary to allow for greater public participation on this topic due to the accelerated timeline the mayor has imposed,” Diaz said in a statement released Thursday morning. “There is much controversy surrounding this issue, in all corners of our borough. In mid-October, I convened a meeting of our 12 community boards to both discuss our shared concerns about Mayor de Blasio’s plans and to scrutinize these proposals to ensure that their concerns were met before taking a vote. So far, nine of our community boards have indicated their dissatisfaction with Mayor de Blasio’s zoning plan, and I applaud their willingness to stand up for their neighborhoods and voice their objections loud and clear.”

Diaz continued: “For months, my office has fielded questions from neighborhoods across The Bronx about Mayor de Blasio’s proposed zoning plans, and this evening I expect even more concerns to be raised. As I prepare for next week’s meeting of the Bronx Borough Board, and for my own recommendations following that, I look forward to hearing from the diverse community of my borough about their thoughts on this process, and will use those statements to inform my own position on this contentious issue.”

Thursday’s hearing is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. in Room 600 at 851 Grand Concourse. Those wishing to testify (there’s a three-minute limit) must register. The event will also be streamed live by Bronxnet at www.bronxnet.tv or on Bronx Optimum Channel 67/Bronx Verizon FiOS Channel 33.

Fitzroy Christian, a Bronx tenant and leader of the community organization CASA, shared with City Limits the testimony he plans to deliver:

Here is why I say a clear and loud “no!” to the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing text amendment and call on our Borough President to also vote “no”:

MIH means 30 percent “affordable housing” for families making an average of $69,000 per year, and 70 percent “market rate housing” for families making more than $69,000 per year. This so-called inclusionary housing plan excludes me, and many thousands of southwest Bronxites like me, because that kind of affordability way beyond our means – our income does not begin to enter that league. You see, here in the southwest Bronx, in CBs 4 and 5, the average income for a family of four is $25,000 per year, one-third of the income of the people for whom the new so-called affordable apartments are being built. So I will no longer be able to afford to live here, where I have called home for the past 40 years, because the City plans to use my hard earned tax dollars to displace me, to price me out of my neighborhood and community, and to do the same to tens of thousands of other southwest Bronxites. And Developer’s aren’t required to do this as the cost of doing business—they can get tax breaks! That money comes from my taxes, your taxes, our taxes. So if our tax dollars are going into developers’ coffers as profit, do we not deserve to afford to live in apartments that our taxes dollars build?

So we must ask that all so important question: “… affordable for whom?”

The developers will most likely be given the option to set aside 30 percent of their units at an average of 80 percent of AMI. 80 percent of AMI for a family of four is $69,000. That means that while some “affordable” housing will be for folks making an average of $69,000, NO HOUSING WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR US!!!

Statistics show that currently, there is a shortage of affordable housing for families with a household income of $30,000 or less. Those same statistics also show that there is an over-supply of affordable housing for families with household incomes of $50,000 and more. So just why are they going to build more housing for an already saturated market and nothing for a market suffering severe shortage of affordable housing?

We are the people who lived through the fires and disinvestment. We are the people who stayed here and stabilized the Bronx when nobody else wanted to be here. We are the people who built neighborhood and community institutions that sustained us when city and state abandoned us. We are the people who built the economic base on which the new Bronx is being erected. We operated and patronized our restaurants; we operated and maintained child care businesses to take care of our neighborhood children while parents worked two and sometimes three jobs just to make ends meet; we established mom-and-pop stores and bodegas, operated and maintained neighborhood pharmacies and clinics, motor vehicle businesses, supermarkets, and a vast array of other types of businesses. We built or clubs and associations and cultural organizations that gave a particular and unique character to our communities. We are the people who were ridiculed and disparaged just a few days ago by billionaire developers and their wealthy friends at a “Bronx is Burning” themed party. We grew our roots deep into the nurturing land that is our Bronx. We are the people that make the Bronx work. But nowhere in the text amendment is there mention of affordable housing being built for our income range. We are severely rent burdened! We need housing for us!

CASA organizer Fitzroy Christian.

City & State

CASA organizer Fitzroy Christian.

And with our area of the Bronx having the highest unemployment rate in the city, this new law creates ZERO provisions for local hire or for union jobs. If we don’t have local hire, then how are we getting our unemployed residents jobs? If we don’t require union jobs, then we are creating temporary jobs in unsafe job environments and working conditions, complete with avoidable accidents and human tragedies, when we could be creating careers that ensure our housing is built according to the quality we deserve while our residents earn wages that enable them to end the cycle of poverty that has been the story of the Bronx for so long!

More than 1,500 community members participated in visioning sessions, surveys and forums to create a policy platform. One of our main demands is that 100 percent of the new housing be constructed to meet the needs of the local residents.

MIH doesn’t do that. MIH is a giveaway for developers. MIH is a way of building for new people to come in, but nothing for us.

And in the meantime the city has not released a preservation plan to protect us from the speculation and harassment this new market rate and “affordable housing” will bring, that in fact, is already taking place. Ask the mechanic shop owner who is facing a 1000 percent rent hike or is refused a lease renewal. Ask the rent-burdened tenant who is being told the landlord is no longer offering preferential rent, who is being hauled into housing court in frivolous non-payment or hold over cases, who is under constant and tremendous harassment pressure, and is being badgered to accept a buy-out of his/her apartment for a few thousand dollars.

MIH and being presented here is irrelevant for the Bronx.

MIH in its current form is simple a plan to gentrify the Bronx and displace Bronx residents who do not have incomes of $50,000 or more..

This version of MIH is not for us and so we should say no. No, no and no.

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City Limits’ reporting on housing policy is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation and our Bronx coverage is made possible by a grant from New York Community Trust.
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