The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Friday News Round-Up!

Here we are, another Friday morning, anticipating the long weekend ahead. To prepare for those three glorious days of relaxation (thanks to Columbus?), we’d like to highlight some important news from the week!

1. UHAB and Lone Star/Vantage tenants were in the news this week! To recap, tenants from Inwood and Washington Heights protested against Lone Star Funds’ predatory equity scheme last week.  Currently, their buildings’ condition and affordability are suffering. To learn more about the protest, read the Manhattan Times article and watch their video coverage! Also, UHAB is still circulating a petition against Lone Star Funds. If you haven’t already, please sign the petition and forward it to your networks!

2. Today, Great American, a for-profit real-estate developer, is expected to withdraw from Soundview Partners in the Bronx.  This project was started in 2008 as a collaborate effort between HPD and NYCHA, and is expected to create 283-units of affordable housing.  Great American is receiving pressure to withdraw after their executive, Williams Clarke, was “edicted for bribing an ex-HPD official.” Furthermore, HPD is no longer considering Great American for further projects, and they are receiving extra pressure from Public Advocate, Bill de Blasio, to stop all projects that involve developers who are under investigation. This pressure is an important step in preserving affordable housing in NYC!

3. For the first time in 50 years, WalMart employees went on strike yesterday! Since the inception of WalMart, the company has aggressively prevented employees from unionizing.  However, OUR WalMart, an organization of WalMart workers, was created to give employees a space to organize and demand their rights as workers. While they do not consider themselves a union, they are backed by United Food and Commercial Workers union. This group has advocated for and achieved certain improvements in local stores, but many issues remain unresolved.  Regardless of not adopting the “union” title, WalMart has illegally retaliated against members of OUR WalMart.  We hope that their strike forces WalMart to acknowledge the value of these workers and allow them to organize as they wish!

4. On Wednesday, Obama and Romney took the stage at the first presidential debate of this election. As referred to in our previous post, they vaguely spoke about the housing crisis, rendering the issue irrelevant. According to the New York Times, the continued ubiquity of the housing crisis is visible in Midtown Manhattan– one of the most enticing spaces of the city.  Landlords, brokers, and industry analyst insist that more than half-dozen penthouses have been vacant for over a year. This is a rare occurrence in exclusive Midtown. As the market remains  flat and the presidential candidates turn a blind-eye to housing, these trends will continue to persist. And, as a result, the need to create and preserve more-affordable housing continues to  increase.

That concludes our Friday news round-up! Stay tuned for more news next week!

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