We write to set the record straight as you continue to spread disinformation. You accuse community members of “falsehood” in documenting what you have done as a City Council Member and as a deputy director of the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE). Following is a response to your March 21 letter to the Lower East Side Community.
You say that you have “worked to develop affordable housing on the Lower East Side.” But, in reality, by taking pro-luxury development positions on re-zoning laws and development plans on NYCHA property, 1) the vast majority of the housing that you have helped to develop is for the rich, 2) much of the housing that you call “affordable” is not affordable to the majority of this community. 3) your denial of protection for the LES and Chinatown community from luxury high-rises invites more luxury development, which causes our rents and costs to go up.
For example, you say that you negotiated “over 500 units of affordable housing in Seward Park Urban Renewal Area.” Let’s see who you are developing the nine public lots of SPURA for. Of 1,000 units:
· 500 market rate—for rich families (for rents of $6,000 a month)
· 100 apartments for families making $105,062 – $132,330 (for rents of $2,627 – $3,308 a month)
· 100 apartments for households making $48,120 – $104,260 (for rents of $1,203 – $2,607 /mo.)
· 200 apartments for households making up to $48,120 (for rents of $1,203 a month)
· 100 apartments for seniors
How many of Chinatown and the Lower East Side can afford these apartments? Looks like your vision for SPURA took inspiration from AAFE’s 2004 plan , for SPURA to be developed resembling the gentrified Cooper Square area.
In Community Board 3, the area which covers Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the median income of Latino households is $21,603; the median income of African American households is $25,707; the median income of Asians is $27,723. Many of us make even less: $10,000 or $15,000 a year. So, SPURA is not for most of us.
You say that you were not a Council Member when Bloomberg’s East Village Rezoning Plan passed. Correct: you were a director of Asian Americans For Equality when AAFE not only supported this racist rezoning plan that excluded Latinos, African Americans and Chinese of the LES and Chinatown from protection from high-rise development, but helped shape this plan.
Your support of Bloomberg’s plan seems to have benefited AAFE, which has received several government grants and funding for their pet projects , since you entered office in 2010. Yet, many LES Latinos say they have not benefited from AAFE’s affordable housing development, citing discrimination. Teresa Torres, who has lived in AAFE buildings for 14 years, and was repeatedly stymied by Chin’s manager at AAFE, says, “Chin’s group doesn’t like Hispanic people.”
You also treat low-income Chinese unfairly. “Margaret Chin has been selling out the community for a long time, even when she was deputy director of AAFE,” says Wing Lam, well-known labor organizer and Director of the Chinese Staff and Workers Association for 25 years. “She crossed union picket lines left and right in Chinatown. She does not represent us workers. She is racist, she looks down on blacks, Latinos and Chinese who are poor. She represents the developers who gentrify our community and the Chinese sweatshop owners, the worst kind of Chinese.”
You say that you “do not support the sale of NYCHA property to private developers.” Why, then, did your organization AAFE propose in its 2003 RCI plan , recommend the idea of “reclaiming open space” on NYCHA for private development. And, why, then, did you support Bloomberg’s transferring the ownership of Rutgers housing to Citigroup–in effect selling Rutgers?
And why have you not spoken out against Bloomberg’s plans now to lease vacant space on Smith, Baruch, Campos Plaza, La Guardia, and Meltzer? They want to build 80% luxury housing right on our NYCHA property. We know what will happen to our rents, parking lot fees, food prices when rich people move in next door. So we may not get evicted today, but if we can’t afford to live here anymore, we will be forced to leave. This is how the plans you support displace us.
Yet you still refuse to support the People First Rezoning Plan which proposes height limits to protect our community from high-rise development. This plan also says that if anything is built on any public land in the LES and Chinatown—such as SPURA and NYCHA— that it be 100% low-income housing.
You say that “BIDs promote and support small businesses in our community.” Why, then, was the Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) met with such angry opposition by property and small business owners, who collected the largest number of petitions ever submitted to the City Clerk? And where does this money go? To the BID which pays the Chinatown Partnership Local Development Corporation–which you helped to create–to manage the cleaning services.
Instead of speaking up for our community, you attack organizations, such as NMASS, that dare to stand up against Bloomberg’s destructive development policies. When NMASS spoke out against Bloomberg’s East Village Plan for being racist, you with AAFE were the first to come out and defend Bloomberg, calling his opponents “divisive.” Like a true Jim Crow apologist, AAFE advocated for a “separate” and of course unequal plan for Chinatown and the Lower East Side.
This past term, you have largely supported Bloomberg’s policies. And banks and real estate developers, such as Edison Properties and Algin Management have been awarding you for a job well done with generous donations for your 2013 re-election campaign.
You’ve denied us rezoning laws to protect us from luxury development. You’ve helped to give our public land to luxury developers. You’ve passed laws that make it impossible for small businesses to survive. Your record shows clearly that you are fighting not for our community’s needs, but for the needs of your rich developer friends.
1. America’s Chinatown, A Community Plan, April 2004 contracted by the Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE)
2. Since 2010, AAFE has received a government grant for its redevelopment project under the Manhattan Bridge. CPLDC, founded by AAFE members, including Margaret Chin, has received government funding for the BID.
3. Chinatown: Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow, Columbia University Urban Planning Studio, 2003, contracted by AAFE
4. See AAFE Position on the East Village Rezoning
5. NYC Campaign Finance Board