The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

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End Racial Profiling and Police-ICE Collaboration! SB1070, S-Comm and Stop and Frisk

Today’s announcement of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the “show me your papers” section of SB1070, Arizona’ notorious immigration bill, came as an unwelcome shock to immigrant rights advocates.  While this decision does not seem to directly impact New York City or the tenants we work with, the consequences are vast.  Not only have there already been several copycat laws passed and even more introduced in various other states, but this law highlights the blatant racism that guides our immigration and law enforcement systems.

As a reminder, SB1070 is the controversial immigration law implemented in the summer of 2010 designed to help the national government better enforce its immigration laws in Arizona. The bill essentially allowed for police in Arizona to act as immigration agents by asking for papers and detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.  The law also made it a state crime to be undocumented in Arizona and to work without papers.

The Supreme Court deemed three out of the four aspects of the law in question to be unconstitutional, but left the most controversial piece of the bill intact: police must ask those they deem “reasonably suspicious” to be undocumented for their immigration papers.  It has been argued several times over that this piece of the legislation necessitates police to use racial profiling since there is no way other way for police to guess someone’s immigration status without judging by someone’s appearence.

While a copycat law has not yet been introduced in New York, several other policies are in place which institutionalize racism in law and local immigration enforcement.  Secure Communities (S-Comm), recently reinstated statewide, is a national immigration program expected to be nationwide by 2013.  Like SB1070, this program creates distrust between communities of color and the police  since it allows for ICE and police collaboration, though in a less direct way. Through S-Comm, ICE can access and run immigration checks on local fingerprint databases.  The result has been a massive increase of deportations of people stopped for broken taillights or other non-criminal actions (the official reason for the program is to deport undocumented people who pose a threat to society).

A second widely criticized program which has served as a way to institutionalize racism in our communities is Stop and Frisk.  This New York City program is under a high level of scrunity by communities of color, activists, and increasingly elected officials. According to a report issued by the NYCLU,

Although they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for over 40 percent of stops last year. Nine of every 10 was found innocent. Even more alarming is that the number of stops of young black men exceeded New York’s entire population of young black men.

The report also reveals that while black and Latino New Yorkers are overwhelmingly more likely to be frisked than whites, they are less likely to be found with a weapon; police found guns, drugs, or stolen property on white suspects about twice as often as they did on black suspects. Overall, for each frisk, a weapon was found only 1.9 percent of the time.

Stop and Frisk’s faction “Operation Clean Halls” even more directly impacts tenants we work with since it allows for Stop and Frisk to take place in private apartment buildings.    Through the program, police are able to enter buildings and Stop and Frisk tenants in lobbies and hallways of their own homes.  To read more about this program, click here to read a past blog post.

Programs and laws like SB1070, Secure Communities, and Stop and Frisk do not make our communities safer.  Instead, they develop mistrust and fear of law enforcement, and we must get rid of these programs in order to live in a safe world devoid of racism.  To get involved in the conversation addressing S-Comm and Stop and Frisk locally, attend a forum this Thursday at 6:00 at Hunter School of Social Work.

New Report! “Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation”

Picture the Homeless and Hunter College Release Unprecedented Report
That Reveals the Extent of Vacant Property in NYC

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26th, 2012

Contact: Adrian Antonio Paling or
Kendall Jackman, Housing Campaign Leader
Office: (646) 314-6423, Cell: (917) 744-5325
Email: adrian@picturethehomeless.org

New York, NY.— Picture the Homeless (PTH) and Hunter College’s Center for Community Planning and Development (HCCCPD) today released the report “ Banking on Vacancy: Homelessness and Real Estate Speculation,” which exposes the potential housing stock that is available in New York City in the very communities hardest hit by gentrification and homelessness. The report was presented today at the Roosevelt House at Hunter College, 47-49 East 65th Street, New York N.Y. at 2pm.

The study is the latest development in Picture the Homeless’s six-year campaign to document the extent of vacant property in NYC and the culmination of an ambitious community survey involving 295 volunteers who walked throughout the five boroughs to identify empty buildings and lots in the summer of 2011.

The report identifies that there are enough vacant properties in just 20 community districts, a third of the city, to potentially house 199,981 individuals essentially clearing out the shelter system!

“We were right!” noted PTH Housing Campaign Leader Kendall Jackman. “We have been saying this for years! There are enough empty buildings and lots in New York City to shut down the Department of Homeless Services. We proved our point!”

“Vacant housing is a drain on this city’s potential,” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. “We have people sleeping in the streets, in shelters, and crowding in with loved ones just to have a roof over their heads. It doesn’t have to be this way. This important study from Picture the Homeless demonstrates that New York City can house every family if developers and the city work together to rehabilitate these vacant buildings and lots. We have to do something, now.”

PTH Member Kalaif Swann stated, “Housing is a human right! This report demonstrates that the commodification of housing has caused profit to be put over people! We need to take back our land!”

“The results of this study confirm what many of us already knew, that thousands of vacant buildings across the City go unused each night, while at the same time, the City struggles to cope with increases in the homeless population,” said Council Member Annabel Palma, Chair of the Council’s Committee on General Welfare who spoke at the beginning of the event. “As a City, we need to prioritize developing affordable housing to meet the high need of low- and moderate-income New Yorkers who seek nothing more than safe and affordable permanent housing.”

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams said “It is not morally or economically sound to have so many vacant buildings and lots in this city, especially when so many New Yorkers are struggling to find a home.”

Tom Angotti Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning and Development stated, “This project is a good example of the kind of community-university collaborations that public universities need to sustain. The first step in solving housing problems is knowing where the potential resources are. This report points us towards a huge inventory of potential housing units for people who need them.”

PTH Member Owen Rogers states, “Developer’s, builders, and speculators see vacant spaces as future wealth. That future wealth does us no good now, when people are hungry and starving and homeless.”

The report will be available online this afternoon at: www.picturethehomeless.org/blog/vacancy.

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