Housing advocates rally at City Hall Park

A coalition of activists from various religious organizations braved the torrential rain outside City Hall on Monday and called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to build more affordable housing units for the city’s seniors and prioritize public housing repairs.

The New York chapter of the Metro Industrial Areas Foundation, which include groups like East Brooklyn Congregations and South Bronx Churches, said 5,000 people lined up along Broadway to express their displeasure with the administration’s approach to housing issues.

David Brawley, one of the foundation’s local leaders, said tenants in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods have not gotten enough help from City Hall as their rents have increased and buildings’ conditions have deteriorated, particularly in public housing.

“Housing is a right,” Brawley said. The advocates laid out recommendations they believed would ease the housing crisis.

They urged the mayor to build 15,000 apartments that are affordable for seniors on unused New York City Housing Authority land; to open 50,000 apartments that would be set aside for people currently living in public housing; and to reserve more subsidized housing for New Yorkers making between $20,000 and $35000 a year.

The group also called on City Hall to commit to fully funding the roughly $17 billion needed to fund the capital work backlog at NYCHA.

Melissa Grace, a de Blasio spokeswoman, said the administration shares “the same mission” as Metro IAF. De Blasio has been advancing an affordable housing plan that aims to create and preserve a total of 200,000 units of affordable housing over a decade.

“The mayor and agency commissioners have met with Metro IAF and made clear our interest in collaborating,” Grace said in a statement. “When they’ve put forward concrete projects in the past — like the latest phase of affordable homes at Spring Creek — we’ve worked together to get it done.”

The administration noted resource and legal constraints limit what the city can do, highlighting the finite amount of Section 8 housing vouchers funded by the federal government and laws prohibiting the city from reserving more than a quarter of new senior housing units to NYCHA tenants.

Nonetheless, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn/Queens) said de Blasio should hear out Metro IAF and embrace its demands. 

“We must do everything possible to make sure that longtime New York City residents can remain in the communities they love,” Jeffries said in a statement.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James also spoke at the rally.