Moving In and Making Noise

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Clad in pajamas, shower caps, and hair curlers, housing activists staged a mock move-in at Battery Park City in March to demand that the city make good on its 1989 agreement to spend $1 billion over 20 years on affordable housing. The agreement stipulated that in lieu of property taxes, the Battery Park City Authority would provide $400 million in bonds and $600 million in revenue to create 24,000 affordable housing units citywide. But the city has found a loophole in the agreement that allows it to use the funds to plug gaps in the city’s budget. Since the agreement, only $143 million in bonds has been spent on 1,557 affordable housing units in Harlem and the Bronx, and no affordable units have been built in Battery Park City. Meanwhile, luxury apartment complexes have blossomed. Jodie Velez, who lives in a homeless shelter, carried a sign that read “Cumpla la promesa” at the protest. “It would be nice if I actually had a place to move into,” she said. The city and state agreed to use surplus revenue from the Battery Park City Authority to build affordable housing in other parts of the city. The authority currently shifts some of its surplus into a Joint Purpose Fund, which has not yet been earmarked for any specific project. Tenants are pressuring the city to use that fund, which is expected to accumulate $40 million each year over the next five years, for affordable housing.

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