By KARI FORD
Housing activists on Thursday filed a Freedom of Information request demanding that the de Blasio Administration reveal the identities of the developers of 400 vacant lots the city says are slated for development.
“When we heard that there were vacant properties in the city that had already been given to developers we were appalled,” said Pamela Garcia, a community leader of New York Communities for Change. “We want to be able to account for that land and make sure that it goes to affordable housing.”
Housing officials said last week that out of the 1,131 vacant properties identified in the audit released by Comptroller Scott Stringer, about 310 were unfit for development, 150 were better for non-residential projects like police stations and parks, and 400 were assigned to developers.
The activists voiced suspicion that the lots would be handed over to developers more interested in lining their pockets than creating affordable housing for their communities.
In the FOI request to the City Department of Housing, Preservation, and Development, the members of Real Affordability for All stated that they also wanted to know the expected profits for each of the properties, how much of these vacant lots will be dedicated to affordable housing and how affordable they would be, and if there were any bids made on these properties that were rejected and what their affordability proposals were.
They also demand that the developers use union workers.
“These developers do have to make some sort of money, but they should not do it on the back of labor,” said Dennis Leary, a representative for Laborers-Employers Cooperation and Education Trust/ “Everybody wants to have a decent job and be able to go home at night and sleep in a decent place, that’s the American dream. The mayor has a chance right here and now to show his colors, he can do the right thing.”
According to Dennis Osario, of Community Voices Heard, almost forty percent of residents in East Harlem make less than $23,000 a year. “We can’t just saturate the market with apartments that are out of reach for more than half of New Yorkers,” he said. If public sites are developed, he continued, they need to be for those extremely low and very low-income households, with one hundred percent affordability and meeting the needs of New Yorkers “now and forever.”
“We need to choose the best plan that works for our community and build under a land trust model,” he concluded.
Garcia ended the rally by saying that New Yorkers have the power to work with elected officials to come up with solutions and make sure that there is transparency when it comes to housing and their agendas.