The Q at Parkside

(for those for whom the Parkside Q is their hometrain)

News and Nonsense from the Brooklyn neighborhood of Lefferts and environs, or more specifically a neighborhood once known as Melrose Park. Sometimes called Lefferts Gardens. Or Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. Or PLG. Or North Flatbush. Or Caledonia (west of Ocean). Or West Pigtown. Across From Park Slope. Under Crown Heights. Near Drummer's Grove. The Side of the Park With the McDonalds. Jackie Robinson Town. Home of Lefferts Manor. West Wingate. Near Kings County Hospital. Or if you're coming from the airport in taxi, maybe just Flatbush is best.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Does Section 8 Have a Future in Caledonia?

Is this an early sign of upscaling near the Q at Parkside?

Buried in the world-news rubble of earthquakes and revolutions was a little press release from Senator Chuck Schumer. In it, he addressed a development at 148 Parkside, (right across from the park near the old Caledonian hospital}. In case you're allergic to reading multi-paragraph press releases, I'll gistify it for you. Mr. Landlord wants to stop renting to poor people, cause he can make more money renting to gentrifiers. Hardly a new story in Brooklyn, but perhaps significant for Lefferts etc.. Here's the whole shebang:


With Over 127 Subsidized Units, Parkview Apartments is a Haven of Affordability In Increasingly Expensive Flatbush. Parkview Owner Is Threatening To Opt Out Of Section 8 Housing; Move Would Put Units On Private Market And Force Most Residents Out. Schumer: We Must Preserve Affordable Housing To Ensure Hard Working Families and Seniors Have A Safe and Decent Place to Live

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today urged the owner of Parkview Apartments in Flatbush, Brooklyn, to renew his Section 8 project based housing contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or sell this property to a preservation buyer committed to maintaining the building’s affordability. His call came in light of recent reports that the owner does not plan to renew his Section 8 contract, meaning that these units would go on the private market and no longer be affordable for local residents. Schumer, in a letter to the owner, Mr. Neamonitakis, urged him to keep the building affordable in light of rising cost of living in the area, so that local residents can remain in their homes and continue to live in the neighborhood.

“With Flatbush residents facing rising rents and an ever-increasing cost of living, we must make sure that affordable housing, like the Parkview apartments, remains affordable for families and seniors and others,” said Schumer. “For the sake of the hard-working local residents that would have to leave Parkview, I strongly urge the owner of the property to renew his Section 8 contract or sell the property to a buyer committed to keeping the building affordable.”

Parkview Apartments’ Section 8 contract includes several buildings that total 127 subsidized units in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Though there were delays because of improper notices by the owner, he has now sent a new 1-year notice to the tenants and to HUD that he plans to opt-out of the Section 8 program. The tenants at this property have been part of an active tenant association since 2004 and are once again organizing to ensure that these buildings remain affordable by either convincing the owner to renew the contract or sell to a preservation purchaser who would keep the building subsidized. Today, Senator Schumer joins the tenants’ effort to preserve affordability.

Many apartment buildings in the neighborhood area are happy to rent to families with SECTION 8 Housing Vouchers. It's generally a good deal for landlords, particularly in neighborhoods where it's hard to find "market rate" tenants. It's a bizarre system, born of the Great Depression and tinkered with ever since. The more I read about it, the more extraordinary is its existence in 21st century America. In case you were wondering if YOU qualify, you might. A family of four must make less than $40,000 - an individual less than $26,000. But the rolls are closed to new applicants. In some ways, the system seems to be barely chugging along, resigned to be put out to pasture once the budget-bullies bring it to Tea Party Nation's attention. In a lot of ways, the mere fact that you CAN'T get INTO the pool of Section 8 (except in severe cases of disability or domestic abuse) makes it a likely target. It's hard to make the case that a system is "fair" if it's not open to all who qualify. (Left and Right leaning folk - aren't I right on that point?)

For all intents and purposes (intensive purposes!), subsidized housing is in a strange state of limbo. The old housing projects are being privatized (look at the tragedy that is FLATBUSH GARDENS). And rather than build new low-income housing, the City's housing authority created a patchwork of programs designed to let developers and landlord's suckle on the public teet. Our own local legend Moses Fried owns two buildings on Woodruff that bring him reliable profits by leasing to City-financed "Samaritan" programs.

Perhaps the least fair aspect of all is the seeming inability to kick people off the rolls when they abuse the system or create unsafe and unsanitary conditions in otherwise decent buidlings, while still drawing healthy subsidies. It's not as common as some might believe, but yes some people game the system by "renting" extra space in their apartments to "undesirables" or lying about their real income situation, or trashing their apartments and making life miserable for those around them. In such buildings, landlord's have little incentive to keep up their properties, and the downward spiral becomes systemic.

This is all meant as observation. My block is full of decent folk on Section 8 and EBT Food Stamps, disability and unemployment and all manner of public programs. Heck, most of us are a few lost paychecks away from the public trust. The question at hand is...are we the sort of neighborhood that fights for the rights of rent stabilization and housing subsidies? Or are we the sort that secretly yearns for influx of market-raters?

The full letter from Schumer below:

Dear Mr. Neamonitakis:

I write to you out of concern for the residents living at Parkview Apartments in Brooklyn, New York and urge you to either renew your Section 8 project based housing contract with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or sell this property to a preservation buyer committed to maintaining the building’s affordability.

I understand that the Parkview Apartments contract includes several buildings that total 127 subsidized units located in a neighborhood that has become increasingly expensive to live in. As a result, there is valid concern among tenants and community leaders that the permanent affordability of these units will also be lost if you do not renew your Section 8 contract.

New York City has a scarce supply of affordable housing units and it is vital that we work together to preserve this supply to ensure that hard working residents, including seniors and families, have a safe and decent place to live. Please consider working with the residents at Parkview Apartments to maintain the affordability of these buildings.

Thank you for consideration of this request. If you have any additional questions feel free to contact Megan Richardson or Jonah Crane of my staff at (202) 224-6542.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator


Anonymous said...

Sheesh, so Chuck is asking a businessman to forgo greater profits out of the goodness of his heart?

Neamonitakis is the sponsor of our building on Ocean. I've talked with many of the long-term residents in the building (some go as far back as the early 70s) and they love all the positive improvements made to our building since Neamonitakis bought out the old sponsor. He comes to the co-op board meetings to meet with everyone, is very responsive to questions and concerns and is very approachable. And none of the long-term rent stabilized tenants have experienced any harassment(that I've heard of). He's no Mother Theresa, but I'll take a professional businessman who treats his property well over a slimy slumlord (a type I've had too many freaking times) any day.

The larger problem of how to maintain affordable housing in NY is a thorny, difficult problem that keeps getting worse. We've got to find some way to make it worth landlords' while to keep lower rent units on the market.

Asking them to do it 'cause it would be nice is laughably naive and lazy. Hey Chuck, how about you propose some real legislation to FIX the problem instead of just writing a pointless letter?

Clarkson FlatBed said...

Hey Anonymous - what's the difference between "sponsor" and "owner?" Not sure I understand the terms. But thanks for your constructive comment!


Anonymous said...

I'm probably goofing on some points (I'm no real estate lawyer), but here's how I understand it:

A co-op building is owned by the co-op, which is a bunch of people who own "shares" in the co-operative corporation. A sponsor owns a large percentage of these "shares", making him the majority vote on all matters. Hence they don't need to get board approval to sell an apt, make changes, etc. But they don't OWN the building, they merely own a controlling number of shares. Make sense?

A true "owner" owns the building outright - as I'm guessing is the case with 148 Parkside.


Anonymous said...

wall street's best chum in the senate looks out for the little guy. how adorable! I wonder if chuck would like a nice big section 8 building near his lovely "middle class" home in park slope… this nabe is more than pulling its weight i'd say.

babs said...

Actually, a sponsor doesn't necessarily control a majority of the shares, just whichever ones are associated with unsold (long-term rental tenant-occupied) units. In some buildings this may be as few as one or two units. Banks are very reluctant to make mortgages to buildings in which the sponsor owns a majority of the shares.

Anonymous said...

Q, thank you for the cogent and prescient post.  You have yet again placed your finger on the pulse of the nabe (or at least the place where the pulse should be, ha).  The neighbor hood is divided in many ways, but this particular division is one which is most interesting, because it is truly ideological at it's core, not purely racial, economic, ethical, or otherwise originated.  The opinions, I believe, come primarily from how folks here envision this hood and its future - some see it as a place for everyone, and some see it as a place for everyone who can afford it, which appears to be a moving target (moving on up).  There are those who quietly wait for the continued abatement and decline in the violence and crime, and that group sometimes links the level of crime with the economics of the residents.  Is this fair?  I don't know.  I know plenty of poor folks who refuse charity, and plenty of well off folks who got that way by stealing.  So I see no need to conflate wealth with virtue.  But I also see no particular reason to assume that poor folks are any more deserving to have the inalienable right to live in a particular unit, building, neighborhood, city than anyone else.  The problem is thorny, to be sure.  People who fear the wholesale selling out of this neighborhood need not fear the worst, however.  The rent laws will be renewed, tenants will be able to live in drastically below market rate apartments, and the beat will go on, with perhaps some change at the margins, but nothing dramatic.