The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

Friday News Round-Up

We’ve got a lot for you today (a lot happened this week and we can’t pick). Without further ado…

  1. “Outside of the limelight, the Obama administration has been quietly pursuing ambitious changes to better support healthy neighborhoods and regions,” begins this article in Shelterforce Magazine. The article was contributed to the magazine by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, so it comes with a certain amount of back-slapping in regards to the Obama administration. But it does give a good sense of what programs are being implemented in low income communities to combat poverty and provide a path for sustainable affordable housing. If you have a different take than Secretary Shaun Donovan on how effective these programs have been, we’d love to hear about it.
  2. The vice-presidential debate was much, much more interesting than the presidential debate. You can read a full transcript here (NY Times) or watch a full video here (YouTube.) According to Think-Progress, Mr. Ryan only lied 24 times in 40 minutes, and in a moment that elicited laughs from the audience, Joe Biden snarked: So Now You’re a Kennedy?! Not a bad day for the Congressman! In other debate-related news, demand for Big Bird Halloween costumes has shot up since Mitt Romney threatened to cut federal funding for PBS.
  3. In another self-congratulatory post from our friends at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, PD&R published this article detailing how the new Elliot-Chelsea Houses transformed a parking lot into a shiny, new, sustainable, mixed-income project in Chelsea. Of the 168 units, only 34 are reserved for people making below AMI. We can’t help but feel a pang of regret that an entire lot owned by NYCHA could not be dedicated to more specifically low income, affordable housing – housing that is desperately needed in Manhattan. Does Chelsea really need any more market rate apartments? The neighborhood will remain vibrant and mixed income no matter what, and rents are shooting up overnight. However, some housing is better than no housing, and we’re glad to see this space as more than a parking lot.
  4. The City is working to create an “Aging Improvement District” in the Northeast Bronx, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Councilman James Vacca announced on Tuesday. The idea is to concentrate stores, services, and housing specifically for seniors in the neighborhood. The area in the Bronx is the fourth such district in the city; districts in Brooklyn and Manhattan include perks such as seniors-only hours at public pools and more outdoor seating. New York City is typically not an aging-friendly city (just think of all the subway stairs you climb every day). It’s great to see agencies and businesses working together to address the crucial needs of the senior population. The district is being created with the input of community members (seniors!) and we are hopeful that concentrating seniors in specific neighborhoods will not lead to isolation.
  5. It sounds like repairs are finally getting made at the 3 “fire-trap” buildings on 46th Street in Sunset Park. Tenants in these buildings have been fighting for safer and more secure conditions for quite some time, aided by many advocates and organizers. Aside from the pressing repair issues, these three buildings are in foreclosure and the debt is held by a mystery group called Seryl LLC. Tenants are hoping for a preservation deal out of foreclosure that will give them a larger ownership role in the three buildings. We hope that this will come through for them – and we know, that no matter what, these tenants are ready to Fight Fight Fight!
  6. Here is an extra article for you today, simply because it is really cool. After a decade of research, the Mannahatta Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society has uncovered the original ecology of Manhattan. Check out this map and use the slider to move from 1609 to today. Watch the streets begin to fade. The same folks are hoping to expand this project to the outer boroughs, and you can (of course) donate to that effort on their website. Pick your borough to check their progress: Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens and Staten Island.

See you next week!

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