You are reading

CM Van Bramer: What’s the Rush? If We Want Safe, Dignified and Truly Affordable Housing, We Need to Get This Right!

Barnett Ave. rezoning site (Google Maps)

March 10, 2021 Op-Ed By Emily Sharpe

I would like to address two errors contained in Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer’s op-ed explaining why he has decided to approve Phipps’ Barnett Avenue rezoning application.

First, Councilmember Van Bramer stated: “all of this housing is for people who are at, near or below minimum wage earners.” That is simply not true.

Upon completion of the development in 2023, Phipps will disallow people earning under $32,300 for a family of one. This number is based on current trends of AMI in NYC.

Do you know who earns a bit over $32,000? Not people “at, near or below” minimum wage – Phipps would need to dip to $31,200 for that. $31,200 is what a $15/hour minimum wage worker makes for a 40-hour workweek, 52 weeks a year.

Even if the AMI doesn’t increase, minimum wage workers would not qualify for this housing today since the minimum income required for a family of one is $31,840.

Emily Sharpe (Courtesy of Emily Sharpe)

A major concern regarding this income requirement should be that it will have the effect of excluding people of color who are “far more likely to be paid poverty-level wages than white workers,” according to the Economic Policy Institute’s study marking the 50th anniversary of the Poor People’s Campaign.

It will also exclude single adult men and women who I believe would want to live there. Men and women who don’t benefit much from social programs or receive extra housing subsidies because they don’t have children – a requirement for a program like CityFEPS.

Will we be housing formerly incarcerated people? A young black man who was the target of racist policing, went to jail for having marijuana in his pocket, and now has difficulty finding even a minimum wage job?

Second, Councilmember Van Bramer stated: “Phipps can and must do better by its tenants, but claiming they are slumlords doesn’t bear out.”

Again, that is simply not true. It does bear out. And it’s not just me or tenants in Phipps’ current building in Sunnyside “claiming” Phipps Houses Group is a slumlord – it’s based on HPD records, Marshals evictions data, and other sources compiled by a group known as “The Right to Counsel NYC Coalition”.

This coalition includes over 25 well-respected organizations such as AARP, Legal Aid Society, Bronx Defenders, Center for Independence of the Disabled in New York, DC37, Coalition for the Homeless and many more.

When it comes to landlords in NYC, forgive me if I believe the tenants with the data. Their data shows that Adam Weinstein, CEO of Phipps, was NYC’s 11th Worst Evictor in 2019. Currently, Phipps is demolishing Lambert Houses in the Bronx – an 800-unit complex of truly affordable housing less than 50 years old. In its place will be taller towers where tenants are said to be moving, but evictions have already begun – 42 since 2017 (the plan was approved at the end of 2016).

Additionally, based on data, Phipps appears to engage in what is known as “constructive eviction”. Constructive eviction is making living conditions so miserable that, tenants who can, finally give up and move out.

Since 2017, there have been 860 HPD violations at Lambert Houses. In Sunnyside, photos have circulated showing crumbling ceilings, mold-covered walls and broken windows reminiscent of abandoned buildings.

Thankfully, the DOB is acknowledging excessive violations in residential units and passed regulations that will prevent landlords from obtaining new permits until the violations are resolved and the conditions are corrected.

Unfortunately, the onus is still on the tenants, who many times fear retribution for reporting problems. As a tenant, I know I do. So, there is work to be done to push those regulations to be more stringent, but the point is that we are moving in a new direction.

In fact, two days ago, I completed a city council candidate questionnaire from another venerable housing rights group asking how I would pressure landlords to make repairs and stop harassing tenants. It also asked if I “would bar landlords on the Right to Counsel’s ‘worst evictors list,’ from bringing eviction cases while under investigation, and implement good cause evictions protections?” I said, “Yes!”.

In his op-ed, Councilmember Van Bramer also said, “[T]ruth has to matter again in government.” With that sentiment, I do agree. But I expect leaders to do more. I expect them to protect the vulnerable and focus on passing and enforcing legislation, like the DOB’s, that places tenants above landlords. That is what I believe all leaders should do.

Emily Sharpe is a 23-year Sunnyside resident, public interest attorney and founder of Stop Sunnyside Yards. Sharpe is also a candidate for city council in District 26.

email the author: [email protected]

2 Comments

Click for Comments 
Joe

Ms. Sharpe,
You live where you can afford to live. Or adjust your budget. People have done it forever. “Affordable housing” is not good for anybody, not even for the tenants. The moment you take away the effort to get something, it’s the moment things go wrong.

And please don’t add race to this issue, it’s ridiculous and out of context, we are in Queens, for God sakes.

Reply
Anonymous

Queens is full of affordable housing. We need more park space. Enough with all these big real estate deals; all we are doing is taxing the infrastructure, and lining somebody’s pocket.

Reply

Leave a Comment
Reply to this Comment

All comments are subject to moderation before being posted.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Recent News

Queens Public Library celebrates Black History Month with nearly 150 programs highlighting Black resistance, culture

Feb. 2, 2023 By Carlotta Mohamed

Throughout February, Queens Public Library will celebrate “Black Resistance” — the theme of its 2023 Black History Month observance — with nearly 150 comprehensive programs and initiatives, including theater performances, author talks and art workshops for all ages, spotlighting various aspects of Black heritage, culture and resilience. 

Popular places where you can watch the big game in Queens

Feb. 2, 2023 By Tammy Scileppi

Hey, football fans! Game time is fast approaching, and across the city and here in Queens, you can feel the excitement brewing as the two teams prepare to take the field on Super Sunday, Feb. 12. So, kick back and watch the big game, and don’t miss Rihanna’s exciting performance during halftime. 

Borough president hears from community members on budget needs throughout Queens

During a two-day public hearing on the mayor’s 2024 preliminary budget, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. listened to testimonies from 14 community board representatives, community stakeholders and members of the public on where the money should be spent in Queens. 

The public hearings were held both in-person and via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 30, and Tuesday, Jan. 31, at Queens Borough Hall. The testimonials will be used to develop the Queens Borough Board’s FY24 preliminary budget priorities in the coming weeks. 

‘Limitless possibility’: BP Richards announces community visioning workshops on redevelopment of Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. and Empire State Development on Tuesday, Jan. 31, announced the launch of a series of community visioning workshops that will be held to hear input from eastern Queens residents about the redevelopment of the 50-acre Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus in Queens Village. 

The first community visioning workshop will be held on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 7 p.m. at P.S./I.S. 208 located at 74-30 Commonwealth Blvd. in Glen Oaks.

‘He didn’t deserve to die’: Borough President Richards leads emotional candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards held a candlelight vigil for Tyre Nichols outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, Jan. 30 after Nichols’ death at the hands of police officers in Memphis, Tenn., made national headlines for the brutality in which the officers beat him.

Almost immediately after news broke about Nichols’ death, the Memphis police officers who beat him to death were fired and charged with murder. The police department released the body cam footage of the fatal beating on Jan. 27, but many people, including some at the vigil, have refused to watch it due to its extremely graphic nature.