|Check out this article from the Guardian.|
But don't pretend it's progressive.
That's the conclusion the Q has reached after my years of community upheaval, conversation and activism. (yeah I'm an activist - wanna try me?) The people who shout loudest against the creation of new apartments buildings, even those with affordable set-asides, are the people who claim their Quality of Life will be violated. And they're not necessarily wrong about that. If you moved to a neighborhood with a certain density, a certain cultural or architectural flavor, a certain je ne sais crois, you'd like to think it's gonna stay that way. This despite the fact that no NY neighborhood stays the same for long, unless it's heavily landmarked, and even then the prices of houses just go through the roof, then the stratosphere, then into the record books. Think West Village and Brooklyn Heights and parts of the Upper East Side among a hundred others.
Finally, some folks are starting to realize that you cannot freeze the creation of new buildings and units and at the same time prevent massive displacement. The fact is, displacement has more to do with market forces AND perverse incentives for landlords to be classist and racist AND the inherent unfairness of rent stabilization (you got it or you don't). If, as in San Francisco, you add half a million new jobs but only 50,000 units of housing - yeah, you're gonna have a problem. A big, ugly problem that leads to more homelessness, no place for low-income workers to even aspire to living, and a skewing towards the creation of "luxury" units. Whatever. Either you believe in economics or you don't. That's your choice I suppose. But I'll bet 9 out of 10 of you already own, or have a decent income from which to search for a new place if necessary.
Ten years ago (and counting) I looked at the expanses around Empire Blvd and said to myself, harmlessly enough, "wouldn't this be a great place to build affordable housing for working people?" Now granted, I was pretty naive at the time. I figured progressives like Eric Adams and Tish James would be all over this idea. In fact, as Eric Adams came into office saying "Build Baby Build" I thought he was going to take the idea and run with it. But I saw 626 Flatbush rising and thought "whoa, new housing is great and all, but does it need to be so dang tall?" Then out came the anti-housing activists, as I've now come to see them. They don't want new buildings. "The City is already too dense. Our infrastructure can't handle it. You're stealing my light and air." How about phrase that differently - you, homeowner, are HOGGING the light and air?
None of those problems are insignificant, but with compromise and sufficient funding, they can all be addressed. That's why I so supported a neighborhood planning and zoning study that looked for new places to build affordable housing. It's why I supported Mandatory Inclusionary Housing. It's why I keep championing projects that are all or include large set-asides for means-tested housing. And yeah, we needs lots more PUBLIC HOUSING too. That's what I believe belongs at the Union-Armory project, but no one so far has ponied up the dough. It's there - the will is not.
Ah well. Maybe the City will simply exert its authority over us and do as it so pleases. After all, we gave up what little bargaining power we had when NIMBYists organized to the point of bullying. And as I've always said, there are very good reason to be NIMBY. There are never good reasons to bully, name-call and shut down respectful conversations.
True progressives understand that social progress doesn't happen without one group giving up something to help satisfy the needs of another. It's about levelling the playing field. What have you done lately to help someone find an apartment they can afford? Not just the "poor." But anyone who wants to live in our wonderful neighborhood but just can't quite make the rent?
Lastly, a word about developers. Some are assholes; some are tolerable; some are even forward-thinking. But you could say that about any capitalist industry. What's different is that you equate them with change, the kind you don't like. But guess what - that apartment or house you're living in? The result of a developer, plus the real estate industry and market through the years. My cute little house was consider the ruin of the neighborhood back in the early 20th century - the tract houses of the day.
But I'm no apologist for the development industry. Fact is, though, they're the ones that build stuff, and saying you want them to go away is to say you want the city to stop being a city. You need to work with them, speak their language, cajole with the right kind of incentives and zoning and partnerships. Or, you better just get out of their way. Ultimately they, like YOU, are out to make a buck. If you hate all Developers, then I suspect you also buy no goods from China, have no investments or retirement earnings in the stock market, don't rely on "free" offerings on internet or TV, never shop Amazon, own no cheap clothes etc. Because it's all part of the same web of supply and demand and frankly human suffering. You like McDonalds; I like Shake Shack. You like Sun in Bloom; I like falafel trucks. But thank your lucky stars that (as Tom Petty would say) "you don't have to live like a refugee." Unless of course you're broke without a home, in which case, you pretty much do live like a refugee.