NYC: luxury housing abounds while 60,000 homeless

nyc_0730Community and immigrant organizations joined rank-and-file construction union members and church groups for a protest of some 500 people July 15 in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. They rallied and marched to demand affordable housing in New York City. Led by mostly people of color, they chanted “60,000 in shelters!” and “Housing is a right — fight, fight, fight!”

This working-class community is known to have been a base for the Young Lords Party, a mainly Puerto Rican revolutionary party that led the struggle in this area against racism, housing discrimination and repressive police in the 1970s. The demand for affordable housing — and that the voice of the community be heard — continues today!

Somewhat ironically, protesters rallied at “First Houses,” eight apartment buildings on East 3rd Street between Avenue A and First Avenue where the first public housing for low-income people was built in the U.S. in 1935. The site was designated a landmark in 1974. Such housing became a lifesaver for the working class. But today public housing is threatened by capitalism’s privatization — despite, in New York, the lack of affordable housing for 60,000 homeless people!

The New York Daily News reports: “The great shame of the city is that homelessness is at its highest point since the Great Depression. A record 60,000 homeless New Yorkers, including more then 25,000 children, sleep in shelters each night. During the last fiscal year, one in 42 children slept in the homeless shelter system, including one of every 17 African-American children and one of every 34 Latino children.” (July 20)

While New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio goes out of his way to present himself as helping to provide affordable housing, developers build in and occupy a growing number of working-class neighborhoods. In a phony deal, Mayor de Blasio claims he is making luxury developers classify 20 percent of their apartments as affordable. But “affordable for whom?” asks the community. This 20 percent is based on the city’s market rate, which is not affordable for those with working-class incomes —  and definitely not for the 60,000 who are homeless. As working-class families get priced out, people ask if politicians aren’t “in bed” with landlords and realtors.

The protest, which demanded the construction of 15,000 housing units for the homeless as well as a $15-an-hour minimum wage for all, exposed a system that is not working for low-income and unemployed people. They are uniting to fight, knowing the important need to take it to the streets. “No housing, No peace!”