Wednesday, March 04, 2009

“The City Does Not Want to Own Housing.”

Such were the words of NYC’s Mayor Bloomberg on a local TV station a few minutes ago and an explanation as to why we have had virtually no affordable city housing made available to those needing it in recent decades.

When we were grad students my wife an I were invited to move into a Harlem public housing project as part of a program to desegregate it. We loved our home — Apt. 14G, 430 W. 125th St. — and only departed under the orders of my first academic employer in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

I was at the time working with neighborhood kids and saw the vast difference in the lives of those in the projects and the tenements across the street (subsequently replaced). The former lived safely and could learn in school. The latter faced violence and disruption which made their lives hell.

We earned our place in the project by becoming active on behalf of our neighbors, e.g. learning where to call on a Friday evening to get our elevators repaired in our 21 floor building when both had died — with repairs previously delayed until the office reopened Monday a.m.  Lyn had been overwhelmingly elected to our Democratic County Committee by our building residents by the time we departed.

In contrast today the only “affordable housing” seems to be the product of deals between the city and real estate developers who will offer a few apartments in a building in return for huge tax breaks and city loans behind the scenes. Such is the practice of Bloomberg and buddies and presumably the rationale for his opposition to programs which would put to use the thousands of unsold or rented units accumulating with our current financial bust.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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