Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Post 15: Astroturf: LESCAZ

As always, with the exception of public figures, I use altered names to protect the individuals in this history.

 The CB chair shielded himself from criticism with the claim that DCP would drop the rezoning if there were any dissent from the neighborhood. This seemed to me at the time to be nothing but a way to bully everyone into line on the one hand, and evidence of just how important success was to him personally. 
Contrary to his warnings, all evidence pointed to DCP's commitment to a rezoning. They were headed towards an environmental impact statement, which costs at least $1mil, a cost not lightly dismissed. In the process of a rezoning DCP expects alternative proposals, and such proposals are included in the EIS. In the end, DCP accepted alterations that the CB proposed, including one huge change adopted from Harvey and Paul's 11-point alternative. 

In light of community criticisms, members of the Task Force created a coalition pretending to be a grassroots community organization but was actually nothing but the members of the Task Force pretending to be a grassroots community organization. The membership of the coalition was...exactly the members of the Task Force, in other words, 100% astroturf. The brazen duplicity shocked me, but I was to learn that duplicity is a common currency of community affairs.

Members of the Task Force took the position that development was inevitable so the only options were 100% market-rate development or market-rate develpoment plus inclusionary housing derived from the incentive bonus model. They did not perceive the alternative proposed by local resident anti-gentrificationists, which was no development at all -- downzoning the entire neighborhood to drive developers out entirely. They did not perceive this alternative, I guess, because they are committed, as I mentioned in a previous post, to the affordable housing model since they derive funding by managing that affordable housing. So for the non profits, development is a necessary evil in order to get the affordable housing. None of this development serves the community, since, as I mentioned, the bonus generates more market-rate units which upscale the neighborhood adding pressure to displacement, and the affordable housing is a body-snatcher modus operandi with no guarantee that current residents will be able to avail themselves of the affordable housing, the affordability which, in any case, is not affordable to them. 

If the non profits care about the current residents, they are limited in what they can do for them. The funds that are devoted to anti-displacement depend on the resident's action. The non profit doesn't go door-to-door asking whether a tenant is under harassment. The resident has to know about the non profit as a resource, has to know that there are legal protections and there are free services for them. By contrast, affordable housing is regulated by the city and state, so the developer is required to find an affordable housing manager. The developer must go to the non profit; the non profit doesn't have to seek out the developer. 

The housing system in New York is rigged towards development, not the resident, and the elected officials and the non profits are enmeshed in that system. The resident is the pawn and passive victim with neither the power, money, connections, influence, size or other resource. They are mere individuals of no consequence or value to anyone but themselves, utterly dispensable when there are wealthier prospective tenants waiting in the wings. 

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