Manhattan -- Affordable housing, historic preservation, and neighborhood organizations representing a diverse cross-section of New Yorkers held a press conference Monday in front of the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) headquarters slamming the board's recent campaign to paint landmarking as undermining New York City's affordability, and the cause of a reduction in the economic and racial diversity of New York's residents. More pictures from the press conference are here.
(l to r.) Harvey Epstein, Urban Justice Center; Michael McKee, Tenants Political Action Committee; Katy Bordonaro, Tenant Advocate and Affordable Housing Activist; Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (speaking); Robert Martin, Chelsea Coalition on Housing.
REBNY, a long-time opponent of landmark preservation and as well as affordable housing protections, recently released a report claiming that landmark protections make New York City neighborhoods unaffordable and less diverse. Speakers representing a broad array of affordable housing advocacy organizations and neighborhood groups refuted this sham claim, saying instead that landmarking can actually help protect the social and economic diversity of neighborhoods, that REBNY's stance is hypocritical given their opposition to other efforts to preserve the diversity of New York's neighborhoods, and that their claims merely distract from real efforts to solve New York's affordability crisis.
"Once again, the real estate barons couch their attempts to enhance their already huge profits in language designed to fool the public, expecting us to believe that they actually care about creating more affordable housing when it is clear all they care about is being able to build more and more market rate housing. Their attack on the landmarks preservation law, an essential protection for New York City and our neighborhoods, does not pass the laugh test," said Michael McKee, Treasurer, Tenants Political Action Committee.
(l. to r.) Michael Henry Adams, Harlem landmarks advocate; Claudette Brady, Bedford Stuyvesant
Society for Historic Preservation; Andrew Berman, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.
"I find it hard to believe that REBNY could ever say anything would negatively affect affordable housing more than their activities every day trying to gentrify this city. If anything, landmarking supports preservation of existing affordable housing and slows down gentrification," said Harvey Epstein, Associate Director, Urban Justice Center.
Robert Martin of the Chelsea Coalition on Housing said, "REBNY's campaign against landmarking is a distraction for those truly interested in promoting affordable housing. Landmarking does not undercut affordable housing. Our experience is that landmarking has the opposite effect, by putting a brake on developers' insatiable drive to build luxury high rises and driving current tenants out of their neighborhood in the process."
Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said, "REBNY's false claims are simply not borne out by the facts. The areas of our neighborhood where we've seen the most rapid gentrification have been those which lack landmark protections. Residents of our two main affordable housing developments - Westbeth and 505 LaGuardia Place - actually clamored for and got landmark designation. New Yorkers want landmark protections because it preserves the character of their neighborhoods. REBNY opposes landmark protections because they want to preserve their ability to tear down and build anything they want, anywhere, any time, no matter the consequences for our city or our neighborhoods."
Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said, "REBNY has a long history of fighting against communities. They would happily sacrifice stability, security and history for the possibility of a profit, damaging the public to benefit the few. They have campaigned against neighborhood interests for decades and seem dead set on transforming New York City into a forest of high-rises inhabited by the mega-wealthy."
(l. to r.) Michael McKee, Tenants Political Action Committee; Katy Bordonaro, Tenant
Advocate and Affordable Housing Activist;
Harvey Epstein, Urban Justice Center
(speaking); Robert Martin, Chelsea Coalition
"The residents of New York City deserve an authentic discussion about affordable housing in our neighborhoods. Vacancy decontrol and the removal of developments from successful programs like Mitchell-Lama are the real villains in the loss of affordable housing. Blaming landmarking for the current situation distracts everyone from the causes and thereby prevents the creation of real solutions," said Katy Bordonaro, Tenant Advocate and Affordable Housing Activist (past President, Tenants & Neighbors [NY Statewide tenant advocacy organization] and current officer, Mitchell-Lama Residents Coalition - both for identification purposes only).
Claudette Brady of the Bedford Stuyvesant Society for Historic Preservation and Michael Henry Adams, landmarks advocate and author of Harlem: Lost and Found also spoke at the press conference.
Those gathered promised to rebut REBNY's claims to the new administration, and continue to advocate for real responses to the City's affordability crisis while also strengthening and expanding landmark protections to preserve New York City's neighborhoods.
You can also read GVSHP Executive Director Andrew Berman's op-ed "Don't Believe REBNY's Hype; Preservation Can Help Affordability" here.
See coverage in Crain's NY and The Real Deal.