As someone raised in a small, rent controlled apartment in Brooklyn as you were, Bernie Sanders, I have a question: how do you feel about gentrification? How about you, Hillary Clinton?
The Clinton-Sanders debate at the old Brooklyn Navy Yard Thursday night will go a long way in determining the winner of the NY Democratic primary next week. If there is one question allowed that relates to Brooklyn while also impacting most major American cities, how about one on gentrification and affordable housing?
Both political parties have virtually ignored the subject of affordable housing in urban America during this presidential race. Perhaps they feel it’s not important.
New Yorkers strongly disagree. According to a recent NY1-Baruch College poll, we rate affordable housing the number one issue facing us today. Almost two-thirds of New Yorkers believe they may be priced out of their neighborhood in the next four years.
New York is now bursting at the seams with more than 8.5 million residents, with the greatest population growth in Brooklyn, as home prices in the borough soar.
Plunging crime rates over the past two decades and other positive factors have made the city more inviting, and Mayor de Blasio is trying to make room for us all by expanding the housing supply. This includes changing zoning laws to permit more high-rise dwellings, with some apartments set aside for means-tested tenants.
When hearing about this initiative, many locals howled. For example, some residents of Brooklyn’s Cobble Hill are fighting the development of hi-rise condo towers on the site of the former Long Island City Hospital, saying it will ruin the integrity of their low rise neighborhood.
Director Spike Lee famously bashed gentrification in Brooklyn, saying it prices out and displaces people of color — after he sold his Fort Greene home to a gentrifier for a hefty profit and moved to the Upper East Side. Hmm…
Meanwhile some African-American and other families of modest means who bought their Fort Greene homes for about $50,000 now find they live in a property worth a million dollars or more — a life-altering amount.
Gentrification and the overriding issue of affordable housing is a complex subject that deserves serious discussion.
What better place to start than tomorrow’s debate in Brooklyn?