Low-Income Housing Advocates Push for More Units in Chinatown and LES

By Lisha Arino on May 14, 2014 3:22pm 

 Representatives from local community groups expressed their support for the People First Rezoning Plan on May 13, 2014, which aims to limit luxury development and increase low-income housing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. From left, Josephine Lee from Chinese Staff and Workers' Association, Chinatown resident and business owner Song Mei Rong, David Tieu from the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops and Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence Organizing Asian Communities Executive Director Cathy Dang.
Representatives from local community groups expressed their support for the People First Rezoning Plan on May 13, 2014, which aims to limit luxury development and increase low-income housing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side. From left, Josephine Lee from Chinese Staff and Workers' Association, Chinatown resident and business owner Song Mei Rong, David Tieu from the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops and Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence Organizing Asian Communities Executive Director Cathy Dang.
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DNAinfo/Lisha Arino

LOWER EAST SIDE — Encouraged by Mayor Bill de Blasio's 10-year affordable housing plan announced earlier this month, a coalition of community groups is renewing a push to limit luxury development and increase low-income housing in Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

As rising rents and new luxury developments make it harder for those in the area to make ends meet, advocates gathered Tuesday to press the city to adopt the “People First Rezoning Plan” a special zoning district that would cover Chinatown and the Lower East Side.

“We’re striving for greater affordable housing than what is available now and we strive for the preservation of rent-regulated housing through downzoning to ensure that Chinatown and the Lower East Side remain affordable to the working people,” said Cathy Dang, executive director of Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence Organizing Asian Communities.

Representatives from Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Chinese Staff and Workers’ Association, Mujeres Y Hombres Luchadoras and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops were also present for Tuesday's announcement.

Under the People First plan, developers would be required to make at least half of their units affordable if they build on private property. For NYCHA and public land, all units would have to be low-income and go through a community review.

The plan was created by residents, small business owners and community organizations to address a "crisis of affordability in an increasingly luxury city,” the groups said. The plan also includes anti-harassment and anti-demolition provisions, as well as measures to support small businesses, the groups said.

The groups backing the plan have yet to reach a consensus on the district borders, Dang said.

Advocates cited a Pratt Center for Community Development study found that up to 9,000 rent-regulated units in the area were lost between 2002 and 2008.

Yolanda Donato, a resident of the Jacob Riis Houses on East 10th Street who is involved with Mujeres Y Hombres Luchadoras, said many residents in the area could not afford to live in new developments or shop in the stores that have popped up in neighborhood since they were built.

“We can’t buy anything,” Donato said in Spanish through a translator. “Everything is too expensive with the development of all this luxury housing.”

Close to 10,000 people signed a petition in support of the plan in 2012, when they called for the Seward Park Urban Renewal Area, now known as Essex Crossing, to include 100 percent low-income housing, the groups said.

Proponents said they will spend the summer mobilizing the community for a postcard campaign targeting the mayor’s office. Dang said the groups will also continue to develop the plan, which they hope to present to the city later this year.

The mayor's office did not return requests for comment on the plan.

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