The rent is too damn high! Downtown edition

The rent is too damn high! Downtown edition
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Thousands of new apartments have gone up Downtown over the past decade, but so have area rents, and protesters are demanding the city force developers to include cheap digs in the next towers being built.

Demonstrators swarmed neighborhood streets last Thursday morning, blocking traffic on Flatbush Avenue and calling for more cheap digs and higher wages for construction workers.

“If they’re going to get our tax dollars, they should use it right,” said Lenny Anselmo, a worker with the Construction and General Building Laborers’ Union’s Local 79.

About 100 activists, residents, and union members turned out for the April 3 rally and march, which weaved around Downtown streets and stopped in front of large-scale residential buildings that do not include affordable housing units and at construction sites using non-union labor. The demonstrators raised the issue of affordable housing ahead of a plan on the subject that Mayor DeBlasio is expected to release on May 1, detailing how he aims to create 200,000 low-rent pads citywide.

A conglomerate of local community groups going by the name Real Affordability for All organized the demonstration and issued a report detailing the number of affordable housing units built in Downtown Brooklyn over the last few years.

Sixty-one residential development projects in the area received tax-breaks from the city between 2008 and 2012 and only five of those contain so-called “affordable” units, the report said. In total, developers built 4,395 units of housing with the city’s help, and provided only 257 units priced below-market-rate, according to the report.

Those rallying said the city should get a better bang for their buck — which they said amounts to $158 million in tax subsidies over the next 25 years.

“Our city is being sold to the highest bidder at the expense of its citizens,” said Keisha Jacobs, a Crown Heights resident and organizer with the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, a housing advocacy group.

The rally started at the intersection of Myrtle Avenue and Flatbush Avenue Extension, between the Toren and Avalon Fort Greene towards, neither of which contain any low-cost rentals, and ended at the Watchtower properties at Pearl and Prospect streets that Kushner Companies bought in 2013.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260-8310. E-mail him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Rent’s too damn high: Activists want developers to set aside more housing for low-income Brooklynites when they get tax-breaks from the city.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham