Militant Journalism

As real estate wolves circle, determined Fulton NYCHA tenants keep organizing

“Save Fulton NYCHA – No RAD, no infill, no air rights, no rezoning!”  Every other Sunday in November West 17th St. in Manhattan has rung with the chants of determined Fulton NYCHA residents fighting threats to privatize their homes in public housing.  

The tenants in Fulton Housing NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) have been actively fighting the New York City administration, the real estate moguls and their Wall St. overlords for almost two years.  

“We  have collected over 600 head-of-household signatures from residents that state that they don’t want RAD (a form of privatization) but the politicians have chosen not to listen to us” explained Jacqueline Lara, a Fulton resident and a lead organizer.  She described how Mayor Bill deBlasio told the residents last year in a Town Hall meeting that “If we don’t sign on to RAD he was going to further neglect our development, which is what he has been doing….  People have been threatened and are scared.”

Linda Ocasio. Liberation photo: Paul Wilcox

Under Rental Assistance Demonstration private real estate would build on NYCHA  land, administer the buildings and charge mostly market rates–which are very high for the area where Fulton is located. The private managers would receive tax breaks for including small number of Section 8 housing.    This is supposed to raise money in a “public-private” partnership.  The City claims this isn’t privatization since NYCHA would technically “own” the land, but it would be entirely run and administered by big real estate and private investors.

The residents have faced endless proposals for “solutions” to the problems facing NYCHA residents – chiefly years of neglect of desperately needed repairs.  All these “solutions”- from RAD;  Infill (putting luxury apartments on playgrounds) , and even demolition of some viable NYCHA buildings to make way for — you guessed it – more luxury housing,  boil down to one thing:  Putting the future of NYCHA residents in the hands of finance capitalists, whose only interest is in taking ever more profit out of the NYCHA developments, not in doing what the NYCHA residents need.

All of these plans encroach on tenants’ rights. For example, the one NYCHA complex that has gone fully RAD now has the highest eviction rate of any public housing complex in this city.

‘Public Preservation Trust’ another rip off of tenants

The city’s latest plan is “The Public Preservation Trust,” a misleading name that hides their real intent:  privatization under yet another name.   Under threat of eviction, NYCHA residents would sign up for a “Tenant Protection Voucher” from the federal government, which would then be bundled into “tens of thousands of vouchers.”  

These vouchers are supposed to inspire the Federal government to invest new billions in NYCHA repairs – something that has never happened–while residents would have to give up  many rights have now in public housing as they would  be reclassified into “Section 8.” Section 8 housing has many more rules and restrictions and has proven to have a much higher eviction rate than public housing. These “vouchers” are also supposed to eventually inspire private real estate to invest in repairs on its own.

This plan just is one more attempt to promise funds for needed repairs while inviting private investors to take over the running of NYCHA for their own purposes. 

Residents harassed by the city

Lara stated that NYCHA residents are now being harassed with robo calls urging them to sign on to the “vouchers” and implying that they could be evicted if they don’t. She explained that the “majority of tenants don’t know about the city’s new plans to privatize.” So resident organizers are circulating a new petition explaining the new plans of the city administration, while organizing regular protests at the complex to keep residents informed, despite the limitations of COVID-19.

At the Nov 26 rally, Lara was cheered by the crowd when she stated that the goal of their organizing against privatization was to “get the repairs and make Fulton a happy home for all of us.” Linda Ocasio, a Fulton resident for 43 years told those gathered that tenants pay rent and are entitled to repairs without RAD or any privatization. Daniel Ramirez, also a tenant, spoke in Spanish of the many violation of tenants’ rights.

Daniel Ramirez. Liberation photo: Paul Wilcox.

Supporters of the Fulton struggle pointed out that all New Yorkers have an interest in protecting affordable housing and building a movement that demands affordable housing for all. Joyce Chediac, a Fulton neighbor  who works with the Justice Center in El Barrio and a long-time supporter of the Fulton residents , explained that by fighting gentrification in Fulton, the tenants were holding back big real estate that is threatening the homes of  all working class people in the neighborhood .  

Jasmine Sanchez of Sunshine NYC chaired the rally and translated talks into Spanish. Other speakers included the Justice for All Coalition.

La Keesha Taylor spoke from the Holmes-Isaac Coalition which waged a successful fight against privatization at another public housing another complex. She gave an especially moving talk urging Fulton tenants not to be intimidated, and to continue fighting for their rights.

La Keesha Taylor. Liberation photo: Paul Wilcox

Fulton activists plan on doing just that.  None of the plans the City administration has put forward have come from honest discussion with NYCHA tenants.   Fulton organizers attended “working group” meetings with city, state, and federal government representatives for over a year.  Only those few tenants who were pro-privatization were originally invited, and those were the only ones Mayor deBlasio and his servants listened to.  When tenant organizers finally were allowed to attend, they were treated like outsiders with no voice, the tenants  said.  After almost a year of meetings – still no repairs, just more false promises.

Joyce Chediac. Liberation photo: Paul Wilcox.

This is why tenant organizers are continuing to protest and show the city administration that the only solution to the housing crisis is to listen to the tenants and make the repairs that have been neglected for decades.  To any honest observer, it ain’t rocket science.

Liberation photo: Paul Wilcox.
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