The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

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Friday News Round-Up

It was a busy week at UHAB but we made it to Friday in one piece to bring you, once again, the Friday News Round-Up.

  1. The Health Board approved Mayor Bloomberg’s large soda ban yesterday, adding to the philosophical debate about what we want our government to do for us. This has proven to be a very contentious issue among New Yorkers.  Soda companies want us to believe that the founding ethos of our nation, our very freedom is at stake. Mayor Bloomberg will tell us that it’s for our own good, and he will tout that his nanny-state policies (cigarette ban, trans-fat ban) have helped to raise the life expectancy of New Yorkers 2.5 years. In terms of taking a stronger stance on public health, there are other issues we wish Bloomberg would get behind. (What about paid sick leave?) But as City Limits notes: outcry aside, most New Yorkers will probably support the soda ban in a couple years, and it may even make us a little bit healthier.
  2. NYCHA is still in the news. This week one of New York Magazine’s feature articles examined the housing projects (“Nychaland”) and argued that they are “the land that time and money forgot.” We don’t totally disagree – NYCHA has many real problems and anyone who is concerned about affordable housing should call on NYCHA to do a better job. However, it is important to contextualize the nation’s largest public housing program. First, it is far more successful than that of any other major city. One of the reasons for its success is that NYCHA projects are not all isolated on the outskirts of the city. (Though some are.) Another reason is that NYCHA is chock-full of organized tenants who are actively engaged in their housing.
  3. Teachers are still striking in Chicago, in what can be considered a referendum on what we want our public education system to be. Public schools in Chicago are deeply segregated and wrought with problems that school districts across the country are facing. Chicago has also been a laboratory for bureaucratic reformers (including Arne Duncan) that are seeking to shift the paradigm of public education. Recently, this has meant an emphasis on standardized testing and charter schools. We’re standing with the teacher’s union! Stay tuned as this story unfolds…
  4. Yesterday was primary day in New York State. Check out full election results here.

Of course, many, many more things happened this week. Tuesday was the 11-year anniversary of September 11th and, tragically, it was marked by both religious intolerance and fatal attacks in Libya. Our thoughts are with victims of these attacks, those 11 years ago, and all who have lost their lives in the two wars since.

Friday News Round Up!

ImageLike last Friday, we’re bringing your articles from the web that we found interesting or relevant to the work that we do. 

  1. The Community Service Society released a report on the cost burden on rent for low income New Yorkers. The most commonly accepted definition of affordability is that housing costs do not exceed 30% of total household income. That’s why Section 8 recipients pay 30% of their income on rent, and their voucher covers the remaining cost. (Curious about why 30%? Learn more here.) According to the Community Service Society, though, low-income New York City tenants pay nearly 49% of their income to landlords, up from 45% six years ago.
  2. The Martin Prosperity Institute released a graphic map (shown above) that demonstrates the number of newly naturalized American citizens per large metropolitan center; Richard Florida at The Atlantic Cities commented on this at The Atlantic Cities in an article, Melting Pot Cities. New York City tops the list in sheer numbers: of all new citizens, nearly 15% live in New York City. (Miami, however, has a highest amount per capita number of new citizens at 998 per 100,000 people.) New York City lags, however, when it comes to opportunities for immigrants. Boston, D.C., and San Francisco show the highest number of immigrants working in high skilled labor. We need to continually work on developing opportunities for life-sustaining employment for New York’s immigrants! (Read more: Florida has long argued that our immigration policies are much too strict; that our tight controls on immigration hold society back.)
  3. It’s been HOT. City Room at the NY Times tells us just how hot. Thursday’s record breaking temperatures reached 97 degrees. Heat waves in cities are dangerous; the Center for Disease Control estimates that nearly 700 people die each year from heat related illness, but in a terrifying statistic they also estimate that by the year 2050 that number will have jumped to between 2,000 and 5,000 due to climate change. In his book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago, sociologist Eric Klinenberg described how social forces determined fatal outcomes in Chicago’s 1995 heat wave. (We really recommend it.) It’s no surprise that low income residents, isolated in run-down buildings in high poverty neighborhoods are at a much greater risk for heat-related death. His book also reminds us of the value of a tenants association, in providing strong support networks that can help in times of crisis!  
  4. Despite support from Mayor Bloomberg and widespread support from law enforcement, Governor Cuomo’s attempt to decriminalize marijuana has been struck down by Republican state senators. WNYC reports that the lack of support was likely due to political pressure from the State Conservative Party, who vowed not to support any Republicans in upcoming races who voted for the bill. The bill would take a tremendous burden off law enforcement, and combat the disproportionate number of arrests in the Black and Latino community due to Stop-and-Frisk policies. Governor Cuomo has indicated that he is not looking for partial reform; bill supporters remain committed to passing the legislation this year.

That’s all for today! Have a great weekend and we’ll be back on Monday!

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