By Marc W. Polite
Observers of contemporary concerns have noted that the pandemic battered economy is recovering slowly. The city is reopened, and “normalcy” seems within grasp provided that trends continue in the right direction. The results of the primaries have shaken out, but there is a great deal of uncertainty for particular residents of NYC- namely 400,000 residents living in public housing. Unbeknownst to many, there is a fight going on about the future of public housing in New York City.
A new company, C&C management is in the process of converting the Harlem River Houses over to private management. A program known as Rental Assistance Demonstration is touted as the answer to NYCHA’s neglect of their buildings. It is purported that an infusion of cash from the private sector will be the needed boost and that no one will be displaced in the process.
Residents are promised renovations and repairs to their apartments, but it comes at the cost of less protection of tenants’ rights. Considering that previous NYCHA developments that have undergone RAD conversion result in increased tenant evictions, this private-public partnership is regarded as a Trojan horse by many in the community. It should be noted that according to the Government Accounting Office, in the 26,000 RAD households nationwide, 57 percent have had a rent increase. So much for the much-touted “permanent affordability”
There is a healthy amount of skepticism as to the long-term goals of this intended privatization. To be clear, tenants want the repairs but are wary of the intentions of the new management after everything is complete. The company is mounting an aggressive campaign to get tenants with current NYCHA leases to sign new leases. This conversion is in no way a foregone conclusion, although its advocates are behaving as if this is the case.
Instead of just accepting this, a grassroots effort against RAD conversion has emerged. The United Front Against Displacement is mobilizing tenants against the new management. This fightback has materialized into a rent strike and a legal challenge against C&C. UFAD is an anti-gentrification organization that is highlighting the machinations of real estate interests against working-class neighborhoods in New York as well as Oakland, San Francisco, and Boston.
Public housing is the last bastion of affordable housing in New York City. In spite of the deafening silence of the vast majority of New York City politicians during an election year, this matter is well worthy of broader public attention. It is already dire enough that the possibility of mass evictions confronts people when the moratorium ends on August 31st, 2021. To allow this to go unchallenged threatens even more people with being cast on the street.
To learn more about The United Front Against Displacement, visit NYC – The United Front Against Displacement and contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-780-9657 or via our social media (@theUFAD) on Instagram and Twitter
Marc W. Polite is a social commentator, author of “The Binge Watcher’s Guide to Black Mirror” and member of the Harlem Writers Guild.