Statement co-authored with members of the Coalition to Protect Chinatown & the LES.
We join with our community in continued mourning of the deaths of the four men—Anthony L Manson, Nazario A. Vazquez Villegas, Chuen Kwok, and a yet unidentified man—who were killed in Chinatown by Randy Santos, who was homeless and himself in need. We are heartbroken by this act of violence. Action should have been taken long before that tragic day, and we demand that our elected officials truly end the crisis of homelessness that so many New Yorkers are experiencing.
Our City enables real estate executives to profit off the backs of communities. It encourages developers to build luxury high-rises in low-income neighborhoods, which–in the City’s eyes–beneficially raises property values in the surrounding area. But these developments have deleterious effects on the people living in these communities. The increased property taxes and influx of wealth incentivizes landlords to convert their rent-regulated apartments into luxury condos, and their small businesses into banks or corporate offices and big box stores. Tenants are evicted, small businesses are shut down, and workers lose their jobs. At this point, it’s hard for those displaced to find somewhere else to go. Many in Chinatown have been forced out of their apartments and have moved to outlying neighborhoods such as Sunset Park. But now the same trend is happening in those neighborhoods as well, threatening to displace them further. Luxury over-development is a citywide problem, and evicted tenants are out of options. Homelessness is a direct result of the City’s displacement agenda.
Mayor de Blasio vowed to end the “tale of two cities” but, in reality, he furthers Bloomberg’s development and displacement agenda. His affordable housing plan is a failure. His entire plan relies on tax credits for developers in exchange for “affordable” units that are often far too expensive for the community to afford. De Blasio destroys more affordable housing than he claims to create, and it is not surprising that the homeless population has grown under his administration. Building temporary shelters—de Blasio’s band-aid response to the crisis—does not address the root cause of homelessness.
Councilmember Margaret Chin has marched in lock-step with de Blasio to displace residents in her district, which includes Chinatown and the Lower East Side. Instead of publicly opposing the proposed Two Bridges mega towers–which would add thousands of luxury apartments along the waterfront–she has orchestrated an elaborate power grab by filing a lawsuit that would force the project to undergo the scam process known as ULURP, or Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. This process gives Councilmember Chin unparalleled authority to usher in the towers. This is not the leadership Chinatown and LES or our City needs if we want to end homelessness.
De Blasio and Chin worked together to block the passage of the community-led Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan, which would put height limits on new developments, mandate that housing on public land be 100% affordable to the community, and protect the entirety of Chinatown and the Lower East Side from displacement for generations to come. Our elected officials rejected our community’s solution to homelessness and displacement, dismissing it as “too ambitious.” Yet, as tragedy strikes, they shed a few crocodile tears and then use the recent deaths to advance their false solutions that would only worsen the problem.
Displacement and over-development have human casualties. To prevent tragedies like this, we need to come together as members of the community to hold Mayor de Blasio and Councilmember Chin accountable for displacement and demand the City pass the full Chinatown Working Group Rezoning Plan right now. Any affordable housing plan that relies on the good-will of developers will only continue to destroy our community.