Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chin, AAFE, development, gentrification and displacement

I posted this originally as a comment at the Villager in response to an article on Margaret Chin's council campaign. 

What troubles me most about Chin is what she's been doing to Chinatown. Despite broad Chinatown protest, Chin supported a Chinatown business improvement district (BID) which will destabilize small property owners, increasing the likelihood of the selling of Chinatown properties and redevelopment that will lead to gentrification and community displacement especially of the low-income community. 

While her association with AAFE and the First American International Bank may be well-intentioned, under city zoning the construction of affordable housing brings 80% market-rate luxury housing, raising real estate values and commercial rents. NYers saw this in Williamsburg -- the community was sold an affordable housing program that resulted in wholesale transformation of the neighborhood. The affordable housing non profits can't back off the city's Inclusionary Zoning program because affordable housing development is their mission and that's what they are funded to do. The result of collusion between upscale development and non profit affordable housing is a net loss of affordable housing, deeper gentrification and low-income community displacement. 

The close relationship created in the law between those non profits and market-rate developers has placed a destructive wedge between community and the non profits that should be protecting those communities. The fault is the city administration's, but the city's gentrification program succeeds by using those non profits. AAFE strongly supported the upzoning of Chrystie Street, Houston Street and Delancey, opening the door to upscale development for the sake of 20% affordable housing, playing the city's game rather than resisting, protesting, refusing and leveraging. 

Supporting NYU development, the demolition and redevelopment of 135 Bowery (for the First American International Bank), the Chinatown BID (promoted by that same bank again) and the SoHo BID -- intended or not, it's a constellation of development and upscaling. Chin is a good-hearted, hard-working activist, but she's been caught in a game that is headed in the wrong direction for community. That's why CSWA, a Chinatown labor organization, and a Chinatown small property owners group oppose her. That's an unusual coalition spectrum -- property owners and labor. Says a lot to me.

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