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Tenants' rights activist disses AY affordable housing program

On the Housing Notebook show Monday night on radio station WBAI, host Scott Sommer, a tenants’ rights activist, offered forceful and sardonic criticism of the affordable housing component of the Atlantic Yards project.

Sommer's monologue began at about the 15:50 mark of the show, after he talked about the increasing pressure on rents and the prevalence of luxury housing among new construction. You have to listen to get the flavor of his sarcasm.

He began:
We are seeing the whole--the unraveling of the promise of the 50% of affordable housing at the Atlantic Yards Project, a project that should be condemned and destroyed. You know, the unraveling of that.
You know, it's now down closer to 30%. And some of the affordable units are going to be going for--affordable, affordable--the affordable units are going for over two thousand dollars a month. They just had a dog and pony show, sham information session, recently, about the affordable housing units, describing how that's going to work, and it's not even going to be around for, you know, well towards the end of the project, should this project ever get approved.

His point, I think, was that much of the affordable housing wouldn't be built for years, and a majority not until 2016, the completion date under the most optimistic scenario.

"Your tax dollars"

Sommer continued:
It's a sham what is happening down there with your tax dollars, by the way, and the use of eminent domain. They're gonna build a stadium for the Nets. They're gonna build luxury housing for the rich. And they're gonna throw some crumbs to the poor and the working poor and middle income people. And then higher middle-income people are going to be fighting for these two-thousand dollar apartments--for like two-bedroom apartments, three-bedroom apartments--absolutely insane. So this has nothing to do with the building of housing. These rent guidelines have nothing to do with that. Because the new units--anything built since 1974, unless it's built with government subsidy, is built outside the rent regulatory scheme, the eviction prevention scheme.

Actually, Forest City Ratner has announced that the 2250 affordable units would be under rent stabilization. (Click on the graphic for details about the rent.)

Bashing Bloomberg

At about 23:44 of the show, Sommer took off on Mayor Mike Bloomberg:
His fake words every now and then, about being concerned about all New Yorkers. The Atlantic Yards project, which is a boondoggle for rich developers, on tax money. His attempts on the West Side to go ahead and to build that stadium--that is the truth of Mike Bloomberg. Those kinds of--the mega-developments that he proposes, that will not benefit the working poor in New York.

It's interesting to note that another left-wing activist has criticized the housing deal brokered by ACORN and Forest City Ratner. Last year, Mark Winston Griffiths, on the DMI Blog, launched a contentious debate among progressives about ACORN, with some questioning ACORN's dealmaking and others defending it.