Campaigns Duel Over Digs


Rumor has it that New Yorkers are stretched a little thin come the end of the month. With the average price of Manhattan apartments hovering over $26 bucks per square feet anyone not wanting to live in a closet, or Queens, can expect to spend over $3,000 per month for a two-bedroom. What’s a renter to do? Better yet, what’s the city to do?

Build, according to Mayor Bloomberg, who today told an audience gathered at a luncheon for the Housing Partnership Development Corporation that the time has come to ensure affordable housing in this “city of opportunity” so that “all new Yorkers can afford to live here . . . and pursue their dreams.”

The new plan, rivaling the scale of a landmark 10-year plan devised by the Koch Administration, Bloomberg says the city will expand its current New Housing Marketplace Plan from building and preserving 68,000 units by 2008 to 165,000 units by 2013. The mayor expects to pay for it by generating $630 million in collaborations with private sector partners, “leveraging” an already strong real estate market and using $50 million from Lower Manhattan Development Corporation funds for affordable units there.

The Ferrer camp preempted the mayor’s latest housing pitch by sending Freddy and Andrew Cuomo to the Kenmore Hotel, a former SRO seized by the feds and turned into affordable housing. The former HUD secretary and gubernatorial candidate said Bloomberg’s latest housing plan “by definition suggests that the old plan isn’t working.” Besides, Cuomo added, the mayor’s proposal is “heavily reliant on charitable foundations to provide the funding needed for affordable housing.”

Freddy’s plan, which he unveiled in August and calls for the creation and preservation of 167,000 of units, relies instead on public revenues—$8.5 billion, much of it generated by reworking tax breaks to developers and reclassifying the tax status of vacant lots in residential areas. “Not a cost to the taxpayer,” Cuomo asserted, “But an investment by the taxpayer.”

Over to Ferrer, who said even the original 68,000 units the mayor promised were behind schedule. “I know of no New Yorker who can live in housing that’s in the pipeline,” Freddy quipped.

Ferrer isn’t the only critic the mayor has, although some housing advocates also give hizzoner credit. Hilary Botein, a coordinator for Housing First! says, “obviously we wished that when they first announced their plan, it had been a 10-year plan. On the other hand, it took the city a few years to see how important the issue is.” Also, while she says they are “basically, very pleased,” she criticized Bloomberg’s past agenda as too heavily focused on middle-income dwellings, whereas his new plan does a better job of addressing lower-income needs.

And while 7,500 of the preserved and newly constructed units are slated for New Yorkers with “special needs”, be it age or homelessness, Patrick Markee of the New York Coalition for Homeless says it’s still not enough. He’s concerned that Bloomberg’s plan “represents only about 5%” of total new units for supportive housing, which pales in comparison to Koch’s program from the late ’80s to mid 90s, which created 10%. “At a time when you have a much higher degree of homeless, more than 32,000 people sleeping in NYC shelters and thousands more on the streets,” the city’s needs far outpace the policy.

Jarrett Murphy contributed to this posting.