“I just love real estate.”
— Donald Trump
In a recent article published in The Real Deal a landlord bemoaned the fact that a rent-stabilized apartment tenant wasn’t paying rent and he had no incentive to get him out. The landlord could no longer increase the rent once the tenant left. All of this was described under the subject of Affordable Housing. I’m sure there are arguments pro and con in this description of the current state of housing in New York City. However, this has nothing to do with Affordable Housing.The current problem with developing new housing units that are made available to the public is that finding out what is available is a job that not everyone is capable of doing. And, the project at 111 Varick Street is as good as any to start with.
Since I knew who the owner of the lot was, a kid whose father died and left him with a number of parking lots downtown, I’d had a little advance warning about what his plans were. The 111 Varick site was always an eyesore because the building had been pimped out for years with huge signs. It resembled one of the buildings on a corner of West Broadway where that owner never met a billboard he didn’t like. According to some local residents most of the money went up someone’s nose. With $15,000 and upwards per month coming in from advertising who needs tenants?
The process of approving a development in Manhattan is daunting. First you start with a plugged in attorney who knows who to talk to and how to get a project of the ground. I’ll let you use your imagination about how that’s accomplished. After the plans and site studies are done and the tentative approvals are obtained, it’s off to the Community Board. Everyone gets to sit around and makes observations, judgments, speeches, and demands for something to benefit the community. Of course, most of that is horseshit. The Community Board has no authority to force anyone to do anything but has one trump card — it can stall a development or make a developer look bad. But, in truth, few, if any members of the Board have had to worry about where their next meal was coming from. While many on the Board live in rent-stabilized apartments, it’s likely due to the fact that they rented their apartment before the War of 1812. The concept of what it takes to find an Affordable Housing unit now is purely an intellectual exercise. And, as far as money is concerned, many attained their position by catering to or donating time or effort to either the City Council member or the Borough President for the right to be called Honorable.
So, I called a number of people to get some information. The Community Board didn’t even know what had transpired on the 111 Varick Street application or when it had been approved. The building of course, had been festooned with ads for how this was a boon for Affordable Housing. Except, no one knew anything about which units they were, how much they were, and how to rent them. The rental office at the building were only able to describe the $4000 to $7000 per month units. When I asked Jean Paul, at 111 Varick about how to obtain information he said they “didn’t handle those apartments” and had “no idea how to find out.” So I contacted Community Board #2. About a year ago I’d contacted Community Board #4 and Community Board #1 to confirm which had dominion over 111 Varick because no one, including Speaker Johnson’s office, knew for sure what that location next to the Holland Tunnel fell into. Eventually, I found out that it was Community Board #2, even though they didn’t know it themselves. And, through a friend, I obtained minutes of the meeting which approved the building — based upon providing Affordable Housing units. Ultimately, the Community Board responded and forwarded a copy of the committee decision.
What’s missing here?
Well, based upon the response from all concerned — from the politicians, to the Community Boards, to the management company, and from the owner — everyone drops the subject once the approvals come through. It’s one of the reasons why Liberals get a bad name. It’s condescending and it is handed out by entitled people pretending to care about those in need. NIMBYism in technicolor. Basically, they don’t care about whether anyone can wend their way through the maze of the bureaucracy to actually rent an affordable housing unit. No information is provided at the Community Board or on the advertising that developers use to inform people about how to actually rent one of the apartments. In fact, HPD handles this. It’s on a website that few people know about or provide for potential tenants to find. Why? Because, basically, no one gives a shit. It’s all lip-service. Even the HPD website has no way to call for information — it’s one of those miracles of advancing technological society. There are no people to ask about anything. Despite the fact that DeBlasio hired 300,000 people to actually do work.
Keep in mind that this is not the Southampton where the affordable housing lists really are controlled by the Town in a long-running game of local corruption. It is a thinly disguised arrangement which provides the inside track to those who are family members of the Civil Service and Town employees.
From this point on, the Community Boards and politicians wishing to cash in on their social responsibility should be required to instruct developers on how and where they will provide the information to potential tenants of affordable units. And, if the developer’s lawyers want to streamline their legal fees, they should provide information to the community, not just their insider pals.
HPD never responded either to any requests for information but here’s the website link in case you need an affordable apartment. Don’t bother calling the politicians or Community Board — they don’t know anything.