Back in 2005, the Bloomberg Administration agreed to increase the number of affordable housing units by 33 percent: 1,563 on the waterfront, 640 upland and 1,345 on public and partner sites. However, only a total of 842 units were reported developed and just 19 on public land.
On Wednesday, May 22, members of the Mobilization Against Displacement (MAD) joined forces with The People’s Firehouse, Churches United for Fair Housing, St. Nicks Alliance, North Brooklyn Development Corporation, Southside United (Los Sures) and a number of other organizations to remind the community what has been left out of the equation.
Debra Modina, a Los Sures organizer, brought a busload of about 40 residents from affordable housing units from around the Southside of Williamsburg to protest with community members and local elected officials at the corner of Kent Avenue and North 8th Street in Williamsburg.
“We were told we would have 30 percent of developments on the waterfront for low income and that we would have funding from the city so we could continue to protect those that would be displaced due to developments,” Modina said. “Has that promise been kept? No.”
Modina, who was born and raised in affordable housing in the community and today has six grandchildren living in the neighborhood, said she is only advocating for what the city promised.
“We are hoping that Bloomberg is going to have a change of heart and will give these people what he promised them so many years ago,” she said. “It should be today. He had eight years, so how much more time are we supposed to give him?”
Richard Mazur, executive director of the North Brooklyn Development Corporation, founded the group over 13 years ago to battle this very issue.
“The problem doesn’t ever get better,” Mazur said. “It gets worse.”
He remembered rallying on Grand Street in 2003 for 40 percent affordable housing in the rezoning and opposing the original plan before the rezoning was passed in 2005 that called for 30 percent development.
“Of the 1,300 units of city-owned property that they promised to build, only 14 units have been completed,” Mazur said. “Billions of dollars were made here, then the economy collapsed and we’re stuck now because nobody wants to build because they can’t afford it.”
Margarito Bustamante, 45, a resident of 186 Middleton St., said there is not enough housing for low-income people in the neighborhood and there also needs to be additional attention for the units that are already in place.
“We want there to be more housing for low-income people,” he said. “A lot of housing.”
Bustamante, currently unemployed after sustaining an injury on the job, said many of the units currently in place need additional attention.
“The buildings need repairs for the tenants that are living there,” Bustamante said. “Sometimes the doors will be messed up on the front and won’t be secure and the floors are warped underneath the tiles.”
Antonio Reynoso, former chief of staff for Councilwoman Diana Reyna and currently running to replace his old boss, stood with the protestors.
“This is to bring attention to the fact that the mayor’s term is ending and the commitments he has made to the community have fallen extremely short,” Reynoso said. “The people that are being displaced and being effected are the poorer residents that have been here for years.”