NO ADVERTISING, GOVERNMENT OR CORPORATE FUNDING

  • Latest News
  • Pitch a Story
  • Work with a Journalist
  • Join the Blog Squad
  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Baltimore
  • Canada
  • Egypt
  • Europe
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
  • Russia
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Health Care
  • Military
  • Occupy
  • Organize This
  • Reality Asserts Itself
  • US Politics
  • Low-Income New Yorkers Pay Higher Rent - Billionaires Receive Massive Tax Break for Luxury Condos


    Two decisions by the NY State Legislature and Rent Guidelines Board will deepen gentrification in NYC -   July 15, 13
    Members don't see ads. If you are a member, and you're seeing this appeal, click here

    Audio

    Share to Facebook Share to Twitter



    I support The Real News Network because they do not just parrot the 24 hour news cycle of the mainst - David Pear
    Log in and tell us why you support TRNN

    Transcript

    Low-Income New Yorkers Pay Higher Rent - Billionaires Receive Massive Tax Break 
for Luxury CondosJAISAL NOOR, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Jaisal Noor in Baltimore.

    New York is one of the most unequal places in the world. The most recent census data reveals income inequality in Manhattan is on par with Nambia and Sierra Leone. Amid record homelessness and the highest rent in the city's history, activists say two recent decisions demonstrate how housing policies play a significant role in exacerbating such disparities. A panel appointed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg voted for a rent increase of at least 4 percent for nearly 1 million city tenants in rent-regulated apartments, the largest such increase adopted since the financial crisis of 2008. Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo just put into law massive tax breaks for millionaires buying luxury condos under a program intended for low-income housing.

    Now joining us to talk about these latest developments is Jaron Benjamin, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, New York's oldest tenant union. Before joining the organization, he was the AIDS housing network coordinator at Vocal New York and active in the group Men Against Violence.

    Thank you so much for joining us, Jaron.

    JARON BENJAMIN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, MET COUNCIL ON HOUSING: Hey, thanks for having me.

    NOOR: So, Jaron, what's your reaction to these two latest decisions? As we mentioned in our introduction, they come at a time of record homelessness and already the highest rent New York City has ever seen.

    BENJAMIN: It's unacceptable. And if the mayor and the state legislature are serious about ending homelessness, about making sure the people that live in New York City and New York State have a place to sleep at night comfortably, they can't keep doing this.

    NOOR: And can you break down--let's start with the decision by Andrew Cuomo. What exactly does it mean that these tax breaks are going to millionaires who want to buy condos?

    BENJAMIN: Yeah. So it's actually a pretty tricky situation. The mayor, even though he doesn't have a vote in the state legislature, typically does things like this. He supports legislation that gives real estate a big shot in the arm.

    NOOR: Jaron, for our international audience, can you talk about New York's mayor, Michael Bloomberg and just quickly give us a little bit about his background?

    BENJAMIN: Yeah. So Mayor Bloomberg is one of the richest men in the world. And it's only gotten--he's only gained money and power since becoming mayor. I think the estimate is that he was worth $5 billion before becoming mayor, and just recently he checked in at net worth of, I think, $20 billion.

    NOOR: And, yeah, so continue on how his policies have affected rent and development in New York.

    BENJAMIN: Right. So the policies that Mayor Bloomberg has either pushed for in Albany or enacted as mayor of New York City has done nothing but drive low-, middle-income people further and further out of the city. There was a report released today that shows that over the last 12 years, which--somehow Mayor Bloomberg suspended term limits and was able to serve for a third term after winning another election most recently. But studies have shown that since--that, you know, in the last 12 years, lower-income people are living further and further away from the city and further and further away from their jobs. And that has real impact on people's lives.

    NOOR: And also the decision by the panel appointed by the mayor to increase rent in rent-regulated apartments--who exactly lives in these apartments? And what impact--it's just a 4 percent increase, but what impact is that 4 percent going to have?

    BENJAMIN: Right. Well, that's a really good question. And I think it's really important to dispel a lot of the myths. The myth seems to be that rich people live in rent-regulated apartments and it's only rich people. Just to give you the landscape, nearly half of the rental units in New York City in all five boroughs are rent regulated. And the average income for a household of a rent-regulated tenant is about $37,000. And those folks are paying more than a third of their income towards rent. And by federal definitions that's severely rent burdened, which means, you know, they're sometimes a paycheck away from being homeless. So that's a big chunk of New York City, of the neighborhoods of people that have lived here for so long. And those are folks that can't afford a 4 percent increase for one-year lease or a 7.75 percent increase for a two-year lease. You know, that--they can't sustain that.

    NOOR: What exactly do you mean that they can't sustain it? Can you put this in the context of the economy in New York City right now?

    BENJAMIN: Right. So more and more people with the economy sagging have turned to jobs just to get a job that pays hourly. So if you have to commute further and further away from your house or if you live further and further away from work, that cuts into your wages. So literally people cannot afford these kinds of increases and can't afford to be shuffled out further away from their jobs, away from the city any more than they already have. You know, being a paycheck away from being homeless means that getting sick at a place where you don't have paid sick leave, that means that you're in danger of losing your apartment. And we're talking about a million rent-regulated units, which is 2.5 percent--sorry--2.5 million people in New York.

    NOOR: And on the issue of the tax breaks for essentially millionaires who are buying condos, is there a link between these tax breaks and campaign contributions that you found?

    BENJAMIN: Yeah, absolutely. We, the Met Council on Housing, collaborated with the Center for Working Families and Common Cause to produce a study that showed a direct link between the wealthy real estate developers that benefited from this tax break and the legislators that voted for it. And there's a direct link. They were giving money to the legislators, and the legislators in turn voted for this bill.

    NOOR: And in their defense, they would say that's totally legal. Some of the other responses I've seen is that, you know, fuel prices are going up; it's costing more to maintain these buildings in New York. What's your response to these kind of reactions?

    BENJAMIN: So our response is, you know, follow the money and look at the numbers. Landlords in New York City have reported fewer expenses than the city has given them credit for. Landlords themselves say, I'm actually not spending as much money on fuel and oil or repairs as the Department of Finance, which is controlled by Mayor Bloomberg, is saying, well, this is how much we expect that to go up. They're actually reporting more money being gained, you know, they're reporting more profits, which I think is--you know, there were several people that were involved in the Rent Guidelines Board process that have never been people to call for either a rent freeze or for a rent reduction. You know, I would--you know, they probably wouldn't consider themselves radical. But when they took a close look at the numbers, they all agreed that a rent hike this year meant that, you know, Mayor Bloomberg does not care about the working poor. He doesn't care about low-income people. He doesn't care about the middle class. All he cares about is having what he called a luxury product in New York City.

    NOOR: I want to read you a quote from The New York Daily News about this bill that just passed giving tax breaks to essentially millionaires to buy luxury condos. It says, quote, the bill singled out five developments to make them eligible for tax breaks, which would cost the city tens of millions of dollars in property taxes. Give me your response to that.

    BENJAMIN: So right now in New York City a lot of my friends who are activists across many different sectors, whether it's the health-care sector, whether it's the housing sector or what have you, or whether it's the sector that works with people that live with disabilities, everybody's getting cut right now. Everybody's losing money. And the city keeps saying, we don't have money. We just don't have money for your programs. Meanwhile, they are very, very willing to dole out tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy.

    So really it's about choices. Mayor Bloomberg and the state legislature have chosen to give tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of low-income people and people who rely on programs.

    NOOR: Finally, Bloomberg is in the last year of his 12 years in office. Is there hope that things can change under his successor?

    BENJAMIN: Absolutely. We're at a very critical time right now in New York City. Homeless numbers in New York--you know, the amount of homeless New Yorkers has never been so high. Under Mayor Bloomberg they have effectively doubled. I think it was about 25,000 people sleeping in the shelters when he took office 12 years ago, and now there are more than 50,000 people sleeping in the shelters, and that's not including people who have been displaced by Sandy, and it's not including people that are sleeping on the streets because there's no room in the shelter.

    So really I think with a new mayor who is willing to make affordable housing a priority, to make, you know, the other 99 percent of New Yorkers a priority, that can definitely happen. We really need someone to step up and to save our rent laws that really keep a lot of neighborhoods in place. If we don't, if we don't have that, then rent will continue to skyrocket, homeless people will--you know, the homeless number will continue to rise.

    Some people forgot about this, but Mayor Bloomberg had an infamous policy for dealing with homelessness a few years ago where they would offer a one-way ticket out of town either by bus or by plane to a homeless person or to a homeless family provided that they could show that they could live on their own outside of New York City. So that's basically what Mayor Bloomberg wants to do and has done is just evict people that can't afford to live here. And I think a new mayor who's not going to make that their policy can really effect some change.

    NOOR: Benjamin, thank you so much for joining us. And we'll certainly keep following this story.

    BENJAMIN: Alright. Thanks so much.

    NOOR: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

    End

    DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


    Comments

    Our automatic spam filter blocks comments with multiple links and multiple users using the same IP address. Please make thoughtful comments with minimal links using only one user name. If you think your comment has been mistakenly removed please email us at contact@therealnews.com

    Comments


    Latest Stories


    Ukraine Transitional Gov't Moves Militarily To Reclaim Seized Buildings
    IPCC Report Flawed By Narrow Focus on Carbon Emissions
    The Modern History of Venezuela: The Bolivarian Revolution - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (5/9)
    Obama Signs Directives to Reduce the Gender Wage Gap
    Eastern Ukraine Lacks Political Representation in Kiev
    Demystifying the Role of Mitigation in the Most Recent IPCC Report
    Hypersurveillance State Won't Prevent Another Boston Marathon Bombing
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1973 to the Caracazo Massacre - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (3/9)
    Univ. of Maine Faculty Reinstated After Students Protest Against Cuts
    The Modern History of Venezuela from 1908 to 1973 - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (2/9)
    IMF Will Address Global Inequality, Says Managing Director Christine Lagarde
    Raising Big Banks' Leverage Ratio Good, But Not Nearly Enough
    TRNN Replay: Austerity Road to 19th Century
    Has Palestinian Maneuvering Revived Peace Talks?
    Late Jackson Mayor Lumumba's Son Wins Primary to Replace His Father, Runoff Election Ahead
    Quebecers Reject PQ and Elect a Liberal Government Representing Big Business
    TRNN Debate: Decriminalization vs. Legalization
    The Beginning of the Chavez Era - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (4/9)
    "Off With His Head": Court Upholds Obama's Power to Kill
    Workers at Nation's Top Hospital Strike For Fair Wages
    From Exile to Radicalization in Venezuela - Edgardo Lander on Reality Asserts Itself (1/9)
    Rwanda 20 Years Later: Genocide, Western Plunder of Congo, and President Kagame
    Ukrainian Protesters in the East Demand More Autonomy From Kiev Government
    Hunger Strikers Demand President Obama Halt His Record 2 Million Deportations
    Indian Parliamentary Elections - A Primer With Vijay Prashad
    West Looks to Carve Up Ukraine & Privatize Industries Held by Kleptocrats
    Where Are Israeli-Palestinian Peace Negotiations Headed?
    The Multiple Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia (5/5)
    Do the Afghan Presidential Elections Signify Progress?
    Republican Presidential Hopefuls Pay Homage to Billionaire Casino Tycoon Sheldon Adelson
    Will Extremist Lieberman Become Israel's Next Prime Minister?
    Why do the Saudis Want the US to Attack Iran? (4/5)
    Immigrant Advocates and Families Tell President Obama 'Not One More'
    Elections, Pipelines, and Protests - The Canada Panel
    Chris Hedges on "Israel's War on American Universities"
    Baltimore Residents Decry Lack of Affordable Housing
    Yellen Talks the Talk But Will She Walk the Walk?
    Hopkins Hospital Workers Speak Out against "Poverty Wages"
    Will Venezuela's New Floating Exchange Rate Curb Inflation?
    The European Central Bank's War on Wages is Pushing Europe's Economy to the Brink
    Supreme Court Decision Opens Floodgates for More Campaign Cash
    Charles Keating, the Financier Behind the Savings and Loan Scandal, Dies at 90
    Saudi Arabia and the al-Qaeda Monster (3/5)
    Maryland Residents Voice Opposition to Natural Gas Fracking Export Facility
    Supreme Court Ruling Gives Wealthy Individuals More Influence Over Elections
    What are the Saudis Afraid Of? - Madawi Al-Rasheed (2/5)
    Baltimore's MICA Adjunct Professors Set to Vote on Unionization
    Boycott of Israel Moving to Next Level?
    Hypocrisy Dressed Up as "Realism" Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship
    Immigration Reform in the Shadows of Cesar Chavez's Legacy
    Leaked Senate Report Shows Use of Torture As "Ineffective"
    UN Report Says Climate Change Will Threaten Food Production Worldwide
    The Hypocrisy of US Calling for Enforcement of International Law
    How the Ecuadorian Economy Grew in a Global Recession
    'Shadows of Liberty' Trailer
    Kristina Borjesson on Why CBS Shut Down Her investigation into Flight 800 (2/8)
    Glen Ford on Racism in the American Media (3/8)
    Paul Jay on What Drives Corporate Media and What Drive The Real News (4/8)
    Creating a New Media Paradigm After Citizens United (5/8)
    Should The Left Engage with the Mainstream Media? (6/8)
    What Is the Financial Backing For The Real News? (7/8)
    Standing up to Character Assassination (8/8)
    Oligarchs, Fascists and the People's Protest in Ukraine
    TRNN Debate: Is Obamacare In the Interest of Workers?
    Too-Big-To-Fail Advantage Remains Intact For Big Banks
    Obama and the Saudi Agenda
    TRNN Replay: Investigating the Saudi Government's 9/11 Connection and the Path to Disilliusionment - Sen. Graham on Reality Asserts Itself pt 1
    The Iraq War's Real Legacy
    Petitions with 100,000+ Signatures Call for Snowden's Passport to be Reinstated
    We Need to Harness People Power - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (4/4)
    BC Pipeline Fight and Quebec Elections - The Canada Panel
    Jonathan Schell - 1943-2014: Board Member of TRNN on Why We Need The Real News
    Teachers on Strike from the UK to Argentina
    Connecticut Poised to Become First State with $10.10 Minimum Wage
    Oil Spill Threatens Wildlife and Local Economy
    DC School Test Scores Up, But Poor Black Kids Are Doing Worse - Andy Shallal on RAI (3/4)
    Obama's Proposal To End NSA Bulk Data Collection Won't Protect Privacy
    How Google, Apple & The Biggest Tech Companies Colluded to Fix Workers' Wages
    An American Should be One that Questions Their Government - Andy Shallal on RAI (2/4)
    What's Driving Putin & Obama's Posturing on Ukraine?
    Hundreds of Students & Faculty Occupy College Campus to Fight Cuts to Public Higher Ed
    Due Process 'Impossible' In Harsh Death Sentencing Of Over 500 Muslim Brotherhood Members
    Has Anglo-American Capitalism Run Out of Steam?
    Being the "Other" in America - Andy Shallal on Reality Asserts Itself (1/4)
    TRNN Debate: Should Baltimore 'Ban The Box'?
    How Fallujah Became the Iraqi Government's New Battleground
    Why I Decided to Blow the Whistle on the NSA
    NASA Climate Predictions Show Serious Threat To Humanity
    Professor Who Teaches Israel-Palestine Conflict Accuses College of Violating His Academic Freedom
    CIA and NSA Wrongdoing Requires Independent Investigation, Says Former Church Committee Staff
    Are Tuition Breaks Enough To Combat High Student Debt And Low Graduation Rates?
    Industries Across the U.S. Are Stealing Wages From Their Lowest Paid Workers
    Who In Ukraine Will Benefit From An IMF Bailout?
    NSA Recording All International Calls From U.S.
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (2/2)
    BP Gets Green Light to Drill in Gulf, But Has Safety Improved?
    Residents Still Not Drinking Tap Water Two Months After West Virginia Spill (1/2)
    Libya's Descent Into Turmoil Three Years After NATO Intervention
    From Pipelines to Peladeau - Canadian Report
    Israel "Making Lives Miserable" for Africans, Hoping They 'Self-Deport' (1/2)
    Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget Strikes Back Against Austerity
    Libya Three Years Later - Chaos and Partition
    Why Was Gaddafi Overthrown?
    Should Ukraine and West Accept De Facto Crimea Joining Russia? (2/2)
    Tony Benn Saw Socialism as the Culmination of Democratization
    Why Didn't Bush/Cheney Attack Iran and Can Obama Make and Sell a Deal? - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (3/3)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi? (2/2)
    Crimea Referendum: Self Determination or Big Power Manipulation? (1/2)
    Sen. Graham: President Must Side with Openness About CIA and 9/11
    Manufacturing a Narrative for War - Gareth Porter on Reality Asserts Itself (2/3)
    Protesters Hit the Streets of Brooklyn to Demand $15 Minimum Wage
    Hammer: 'Moral Bankruptcy' Behind Massive GM Recall
    White House Withholds Thousands of Documents from Senate CIA Probe
    I Grew Up Believing in Time Magazine's Version of America - Gareth Porter on RAI (1/3)
    Western European Banks Vulnerable to Ukrainian Sovereign Debt Crisis
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (2/2)
    CIA vs. Senate: Who Is Obama Protecting?
    Will Tipped Workers Get Excluded Again From Minimum Wage Hike?
    TRNN Debate: What's Driving Inflation in Venezuela? (1/2)
    After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What's Next for Jackson, Mississippi?(1/2)
    TRNN Replay: A Look at Who's Poised to Become No.2 at the Fed
    How Right-Wing Nationalism Rose to Influence in Ukraine (2/2)
    Netanyahu Attacks Boycott As Campaign Enters New Phase
    Moving Towards a Police State - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (7/7)
    Fighting Reagan's Secret, Illegal Wars - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (6/7)
    Puerto Rican Independence Movement and Cuba Further Radicalized Me - Michael Ratner on RAI (5/7)
    The Butcher of Attica - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (4/7)
    MLK and a Radicalizing Moment in American History - Michael Ratner on Reality Asserts Itself (3/7)

    RealNewsNetwork.com, Real News Network, Real News, Real News For Real People, IWT are trademarks and service marks of IWT.TV inc. "The Real News" is the flagship show of IWT and Real News Network.

    All original content on this site is copyright of The Real News Network.  Click here for more

    Problems with this site? Please let us know

    Linux VPS Hosting by Star Dot Hosting