New York Housing

UPDATE 12. 7.17

City and community groups have agreed on a plan. CreditFred R. Conrad/The New York Times                                                                                                                                              An eight-year legal fight over racial discrimination by New York City in a proposed Brooklyn development is expected to be settled on Monday, after community groups and the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed on a new plan for affordable housing for the site.

The court battle, which began in 2009 and included consideration by the judge of racial segregation, concerned city-owned land in a triangular area at the border of Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick — rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods with large communities of Hasidic, Hispanic and black residents.

The settlement, to be filed on Monday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, would result in the creation of around 375 units of affordable housing for some of the poorest New Yorkers at the so-called Broadway Triangle. It would give preference to residents from a broader and more diverse area than originally proposed, and include investment in counseling and legal representation for local residents who believe they were discriminated against while seeking housing.

“The city’s priority has been to get the most affordable housing possible in this neighborhood and to put this longstanding litigation behind us so this community can focus on the future,” Nicholas Paolucci, a law department spokesman, said in a statement. “We’re very pleased with the outcome.”

Juan Ramos, the head of the Broadway Triangle Community Coalition, the consortium of residents and local groups that brought the suit, called the settlement “a model for other communities”.

“We as community folks do not need to be silent on the issue of rezoning,” he said.

The settlement could have an impact beyond the corner of North Brooklyn that is directly affected, said Shekar Krishnan, a lawyer with Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation A, which represents the plaintiffs. “It comes at a critical moment with all these rezonings by the de Blasio administration in low-income communities of color,” he said. “This lawsuit shows that the city is required to affirmatively further fair housing and not exacerbate segregation.”

Some of the same groups involved in the case are opposing a separate rezoning and development proposal for another portion of the area. That rezoning, on land formerly owned by Pfizer, received City Council approval last month.

 Rezonings are a key part of Mr. de Blasio’s housing plan, as they were for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and so far have been concentrated in mostly lower-income and minority neighborhoods, such as East New York, Brooklyn, and Far Rockaway, Queens. Last week, the administration obtained City Council approval for rezoning in East Harlem.

In the Brooklyn discrimination case, a milestone came in December 2011 when the State Supreme Court justice, Emily Jane Goodman, stopped the project and sided with the plaintiffs in finding that the “proposed developments will not only not foster integration of the neighborhood, but it will perpetuate segregation.”

The original plan for the largely vacant area was conceived under Mr. Bloomberg and called for buildings that were around six or seven stories high and included large apartments, two elements seen by opponents as tailored to the Hasidic residents, who typically have larger families and for religious reasons cannot operate elevators on the Sabbath.

The plan also called for giving preference in allocating the apartments to residents of the predominantly white Community Board 1 area, where the project resides, disfavoring residents of the adjacent Community Board 3, which has more black and Hispanic residents. (The use of such “community preferences” are the subject of a separate lawsuit).

The plaintiffs said that the plan was unfair to the majority of applicants for public housing, who need one- and two-bedroom apartments and are black and Hispanic. The plan also awarded development bids to two nonprofit groups, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council and the United Jewish Organizations of Williamsburg.

The plaintiffs also argued that the city did not make any attempt to look into the impact of the plan on patterns of segregation, nor attempt to further fair housing as required by law for projects receiving federal housing funds.

As part of the settlement, the city would not change the rezoning, but it would change the development plan. The city agreed to give preference to current and some past residents of both community boards and create a wider distribution of apartments, from studios to two-bedrooms and larger. The agreement also expanded the number of sites that would be part of the plan, allowing the number of potential new apartments to increase from what had been about 180. (The land in question is owned by the city apart from a small section of one parcel that is in dispute in another legal case.)

The city agreed also to choose new developers through an open bidding process.

“This just reaffirms for us that if we don’t study the racial impacts of proposed rezoning we are doomed to further segregation,” said Alexandra Fennell of Churches United for Fair Housing, one of the plaintiffs. “I think it’s a great jumping off point for us to fight more.”

The plaintiffs were also represented by Arthur Eisenberg of the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Diane L. Houk of the law firm of Emery Celli Brinkerhoff and Abady. The settlement was filed with Justice Shlomo S. Hagler, who replaced Justice Goodman after her retirement.

Group Sues NYC Over Affordable Housing Policy.Hotel test5

The AP reported that on Tuesday, the Anti-Discrimination Center, a civil rights group, sued New York City, alleging it “promotes segregation by favoring whites for affordable housing in Manhattan neighborhoods that are predominantly white.” This action was taken “on behalf of three black plaintiffs in federal court, where” the group “seeks unspecified damages and court intervention to force the city to change its affordable housing practices.”

The New York Times reported the city allocates “affordable housing to low- and moderate-income households through lotteries that have been drawing tens of thousands of applications in the tight housing market,” and “new buildings look for tenants with preferential status under lottery rules, including residents in the community district where the new housing will go.” While officials maintain the preference helps to preserve neighborhoods, the plaintiffs argue it “denies equal access and serves to keep racial and ethnic minorities out of mostly white areas in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act and the city’s Human Rights Law.”

The Wall Street Journal reported the suit could disrupt Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing initiative. The suit would prevent the city from designating any units for residents of particular community districts.

Capital New York reported the city typically reserves 50% of a building’s affordable units for local residents, but the suit argues that this “‘outsider restriction policy’ is tantamount to ‘entrenched segregation,’ and makes it harder for low-income and minority residents to access high-quality schools, parks, and jobs.”

Also covering the story were the New York Daily NewsReal Deal (NY) and Curbed.

Further to the above I would suggest that in the professions that are involved in creating the housing there is a dismal failure and lack of representation in the sectors that would include developers, contractors, engineers, architects and the adequate training for trades-people of ethnic and gender descriptions who are qualified to offer their services towards a more holistic and equitable access to opportunities with the mayor’s agenda and goals.

Further to this, the complete and total disregard for research and development in the search for viable technological systems and solutions leave this housing industry stuck in obsolescence and overburdened economics of all possible kinds especially economics and project financing. This results in the unreasonable and unaffordable housing market at all demographic, psychographic and community levels.

The paradigm shift is impacting the entire human development and life support systems with housing being at the top of the list of human needs. Food, Clothing, and Shelter, according to Maslow, is below acceptable stands for all communities. There is an unhealthy imbalance in all of our “creative expressions”, economies, services, and the training for innovative solutions for living in the emerging world we have inherited. There is an exclusion that accompanies every one of these observations that needs to be addressed by the leadership in our communities, among the cultural, religious, civic, political and all other representatives who need to be engaged in understanding the complex dynamic of where we are in this evolutionary process of living in cities and having to step up to the reality the truth of our human condition for all people and what it would take for equitable opportunities for healthy lifestyles.

The city is missing the opportunity by not being able to take advantage of the real healing benefits that can be derived from a stress-less built environment its citizens can enjoy. My observation also is about the myopic self-interested perspectives we get in looking for solutions. Each divided and conquered community of whatever kind or persuasion has its own agenda with no regard for a holistic vision. A broader vision, that shifts our thinking, will be more inclusive, effective and human.

These are topics for feedback and collaboration in the dialog we need to engage in to define our lives.   1. What are the rudimentary principles of new policies for a sustainable and viable housing industry?

2. What is the role does housing play in the cultural economic development agenda?

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