Marchers Cross Brooklyn Bridge to Protest NYC Housing Conditions. Photo: Lem Peterkin

NEW YORK ( – On Feb. 2, thousands of New York City housing activists called on politicians to take immediate action to guarantee housing for all New Yorkers. “Housing Here and Now”–an historic coalition of affordable housing groups, labor unions, AIDS activists, congregations and other community organizations–rallied in front of City Hall to present a five-point program to New York City’s elected officials.

“We call on our elected leaders to ensure that there is affordable housing for all New Yorkers, whether they live in Greenpoint-Williamsburg, Brooklyn, West Chelsea in Manhattan or the South Bronx,” said Bishop Joseph Sullivan of the Diocese of Brooklyn, the first speaker at the rally.

Randi Weingarten, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said, “New York City’s teachers, and all of our municipal employees, shouldn’t have to struggle to afford a decent home. There are immediate steps that our elected officials can take to build and preserve affordable housing citywide.”


We know the money from Battery Park City can be used to build homes for people who are not rich, and to preserve the scarce affordable housing we’ve got, we just need to keep the promise.
-Herbert Bennett, youth advocate, Coalition for the Homeless

According to the coalition the five-point “Here’s How” platform includes measures that NYC officials can take immediately to build and preserve affordable housing:

– Keep the promise: guarantee that surplus revenues from the state-owned Battery Park City Authority are used to build affordable housing.

– Inclusionary Zoning: guarantee a significant amount of permanently affordable housing for low and moderate-income people in NYC neighborhoods being up-zoned, including 40 percent in the large Green-Point.

– Restore Home Rule: work seriously to repeal the “Urstadt Law” and thereby restore full home rule to the city of New York over rents and evictions, instead of allowing upstate legislators to dictate rent laws.

– AIDS Housing: enact legislation to provide permanent affordable housing for homeless people living with AIDS.

Healthy Homes: enact “The Healthy Homes Act” to strengthen tenants’ rights to a healthy home through better inspections and tougher penalties.

According to the organization Coalition for the Homeless, at the end of December 2004 there were 36,248 New Yorkers in shelters. Approximately 90 percent of the city’s homeless are Black and Latino; and according to the 2000 U.S. Census 53 percent of NYC’s population are Black and Latino.

According to the Census Bureau statistics in 1999, there was a shortage of nearly 390,000 affordable apartments for extremely low-income renter households in NYC (families earning less than $16,000 a year); compared to 1970 when there was a surplus of 270,000 affordable apartments. Activists say that in 1999, one out of every four NYC renter households paid more than half of their income on rent and utilities. They also say that from 1991 to 1999, NYC lost more than 510,000 apartments with gross rents below $500 per month, a decline of 55 percent in the shrinking housing stock.

Herbert Bennett, a homeless teenager and youth advocate with Coalition for the Homeless, called on elected officials to step up to the plate. “We know the money from Battery Park City can be used to build homes for people who are not rich, and to preserve the scarce affordable housing we’ve got, we just need to keep the promise.”

“The Mayor and City Council have the power to make sure that homeless people living with AIDS have safe permanent housing and don’t languish for months in dangerous, expensive welfare hotels,” observed Amos Hough, who was once homeless and a member of the NYC AIDS Housing Network.

Hilda Chavis, a resident leader with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, demanded restoration of “home rule” over rent and eviction laws, saying, “New York City’s elected officials should determine the housing laws and rules, not Albany lawmakers from outside the city.”

Gregoria Rosas, a community leader with Make the Road By Walking, told protestors that NYC inspectors found lead paint and other serious violations in her apartment. “We need the Mayor and City Council to pass the ‘Healthy Homes Act’ to protect children like mine from having to live in danger,” she said.