Our Housing Plan
Make New York
We are a true Metropolis and Global City. The challenges we face in District range from over-taxing our properties to underfunding repairs for our NYCHA buildings. Thousands of residents are discovering they have liens on their homes and have never been informed of it. The following is the history, present day conditions, and solutions we need to move forward for us all.
We are a true Metropolis and Global City
New York was one of the original thirteen colonies. Founded as “New Amsterdam” by the Dutchman Peter Minuit who purchased it from Native Americans for 60 Dutch Guilders worth of trinkets in 1625, New York City will celebrate 400 years in 2025
The evolution of the city as we know it, begins in the 1850’s. From single-family houses to high-rise apartment towers, New York City will forever remain an unfinished project. It is from the development of our housing infrastructure that our transportation, education and health systems come together in the city we have today.
There are still some apartments in the city that sport a bathtub in the kitchen or a phantom window to nowhere. While quaint now, in truth, these apartments were mostly parts of tenements that were poorly constructed and poorly ventilated contributing to the poorest health conditions and mortality rate for its residents.
The emergence of public housing, NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) created in 1934 by Mayor Fiorello H. Laguardia’s administration was a model of success albeit, at the time, it screened out most applicants via a list of whether you were a single mother, had an irregular work history, or even had a lack of furniture.
There was plenty of funding and staff available for maintenance. You would call for a repair and it was fixed right away. It’s amazing how a word can change in meaning over time. NYCHA public housing was known at the time as the “Projects”. And it was a model of living for mostly white residents.
By the end of the 1960’s, NYCHA relaxed it’s selection process due to political activism, allowing people in need of all backgrounds access to public housing. It was a time, not unlike the time we are living in today, of great social change and upheaval. The projects were still the place to be, but significant funding was reduced, drugs, crime and vandalism increased to a point NYCHA policing and repair couldn’t keep up with. This was what was called the “break-and-repair cycle” of windows broken, elevators vandalized and mailboxes broken into for paper checks that could be cashed anywhere.
By the 1980’s the “Projects” became synonymous with fear and danger.
For more insight into the background of public housing visit:
Ruben shares: The Rise and Fall of New York Public Housing: An Oral History
Ruben shares: A Brief History of Affordable Housing in New York City
Our home is our castle. Our land is our business. New York is home to people of more nations than any other city in the world.
The median property tax nationwide is approx. $1,917 while the median tax paid in Queens is about $2,914. We pay 30% more in property taxes than the rest of the country.
The STAR and SCHE program provides tax reductions for seniors, but many seniors don’t know of the program or cannot properly fill out the applications.
There is no law against putting a lien on your property without telling you.
In NYCHA housing, repairs, heat, cold, vermin, leaks, broken elevators and threats of privatization of NYCHA are part of daily living now with a $32 Billion dollar back-log on repairs.
My Housing Solution
MY PROPOSITION 10/10
10% mandatory affordable housing for all housing with ten or more units.
10% mandatory affordable business rentals for all commercial buildings.
A law making it illegal to place a lien on a property without advising the property owner.
The one thing we have that is undeniably ours is our land. It is our responsibility to govern our land for our people.
It’s all related. How does housing affect the schooling our youth receive? How does transportation and healthcare play a part?
COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on us all whether we are homeowners or renters. How do we pay our utilities, insurance, taxes, rent, or mortgage when we have no income? Many homeowners have been afforded a grace period of up to a year with mortgage payments being deferred to the end of the loan. We’ve had at least three month holds on our other payments.
But we are facing evictions and foreclosures. Residents losing their homes in the coming months will face an even harder time finding a place to live as landlords will be hesitant to rent to new tenants and mortgages will be harder to secure for, although home owners are assured their credit rating will not suffer, I hear numerous cases of severe drops in our credit ratings.
Next to governance with our Mayor, City Council relations with its community boards are essential not just in land use and housing, but in strengthening the framework to not just help our city grow, but prosper.
We all have to give a little. Sometimes we have to give a lot. But we can’t wait for others to open the right doors for us. We have to come together and make this happen. And it can go a long way to help our school segregation problem. Once again, I consider the mandate of Justice Thurgood Marshall that we “... learn to live together and understand each other."
Make no mistake. COVID-19 is remaking how we govern. I see this as a unique opportunity to make the changes we always needed across all sections of governance.
So what is the 10/10 proposition? I want to institute 10% mandatory affordable housing for all housing with ten or more units in both old and new developments. 10% mandatory affordable business rentals for all commercial buildings in both old and new developments. I want to break apart the warehousing of the poor and low income families. My 10/10 initiative ensures that we have a balance in our city and in our neighborhoods.
Mandatory occupancy. Too many property owners purposely leave units vacant causing higher prices and shortages in both housing and commercial business. This contributes to the “Ghost town” syndrome that wreaks havoc on our businesses and communities. We can incentivize and mandate occupancy over a specified time. We need to stop the warehousing of our city apartments and storefronts.
Loan Shark: A person or entity that charges extremely high interest rates typically in excess of 30%. This is also known as usury. A lesser term is also price gouging. Another term for this is Profiteering.
Rent or lease increases of more than 30% due to “market rates” is little different. Especially during these times. I would file to extend New York Usury laws to include rents, leases and mortgages in our city. Regarding this abuse, look at the following article.
In this article:
Second Circuit Decision Addresses New York Usury Laws and Post-Default Mortgage Loan Obligations
“On March 30, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed several holdings of the District Court for the Eastern District of New York requiring a commercial mortgage borrower to pay default interest at a rate of 24 percent, effective as of the date of the default. In 1077 Madison Street, LLC v. March, the defendant borrower, an individual, raised numerous defenses to the enforcement of a mortgage foreclosure action related to a 2007 mortgage in the original principal amount of $211,000, secured by a mixed-use commercial property in Queens, New York. Notably, the borrower raised an unsuccessful usury defense against the calculation of interest due made by a court-appointed referee.
In 2014, the plaintiff, a holder of the mortgage at issue by assignment, commenced its foreclosure action against the borrower, citing February 1, 2008 as the date of the default. Following the plaintiff’s successful motion for summary judgment, and the borrower’s unsuccessful subsequent motion for reconsideration, a court-appointed referee calculated the amounts then due on the mortgage and underlying promissory note. The referee calculated the interest at the default rate contained in the mortgage loan documents, 24 percent, calculated as of the date of the default, which resulted in a total amount due of approximately $596,700, of which $383,736 was interest alone. Subsequently, the District Court entered an order of foreclosure and sale, which the borrower appealed.”
Please note, this happened in Queens. Where the plaintiff was charged $383,736 in interest on top of the $211,000 he owed.
As much as 29% of business properties in Queens may be operating without a Certificate of Occupancy. Many businesses are renting in these properties and risk having the building closed down at any time. Many of these property owners refuse to get a Certificate of Occupancy or allow the tenant to procure one, preferring to leave the building vacant in hope of selling the property or land to developers.
I will introduce legislation to review all non-compliant commercial properties and confiscate properties that do not meet code within a two-year period. Properties without a valid Certificate of Occupancy will be considered abandoned and taken over by the city.
The Urstadt Law was named after Charles Urstadt. He was a real-estate owner and housing commissioner for Nelson Rockefeller. This law is a sty that leaves New York City residents and leaders with no power to improve housing conditions. Property owners are using the Urstadt law to try to bypass the city and significantly raise the rents of our remaining rent-controlled units.
Our City, Our Rules.
New York City must run New York City. The Urstadt Law prevents us from enforcing stronger rent regulations without the state housing commissioner’s approval. The law keeps us from preventing the real estate industry profiteering from excessive rents. Let’s throw out this law.
We need clean streets free of potholes with free broadband available citywide. I believe the recent cutback in sanitation presents an imminent health threat. We’ve all seen the discarded masks and gloves that collect on our streets. A few months ago, the Department of Sanitation removed hundreds of large enclosed trash cans from our streets and replaced them with smaller, wired baskets. With reduced pickups, our daily view in our neighborhoods is overflowing garbage cans. During this time of COVID-19, it is irresponsible to leave our city so dirty and at risk of passing bacteria and disease. We need the right trash cans back and Sanitation back on the job of keeping our streets clean.
We need City approved vendors to bring affordable energy efficient housing to our neighborhoods. We need to allow for easier permits for homeowners to rent basements.
The AMI paradox
The matrix for affordable housing is determined partly by the calculation of AMI.
The AMI is an income figure used to help determine eligibility for affordable housing programs in NYC and is calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It is based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey median family income estimates. “Median” means that half of a geographic area’s household income is above that midpoint, while the other half is below that amount.*
For 2018, the AMI for New York City is $93,900 for a three-person household (100 percent of AMI).*
Oddly, New York City’s AMI is not just confined to NYC’s five boroughs, but also includes Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties. It’s defined as the “New York, NY HUD Metro FMR Area.”*
The City Council and Mayor have no jurisdiction in Putnam, Rockland and Westchester counties. So it’s inclusion in our AMI gives us inaccurate figures in determining the parameters for determining affordable housing rates.
New York is well known as roommate mecca popularized by such television programs as “Friends” and “Will & Grace”. But we find more and more couples, single parents and families renting rooms and sharing apartments and homes.
These arrangements can help not only with sharing the costs of living, but in lending support in
the care of our pets and everyday tasks in rearing children. In fact, many landlords now rent out rooms instead of the apartment in order to maximize profit.
In many cases, if a building isn’t designated as an SRO (Single-room-occupancy) or hotel, it’s illegal for the landlord to rent individual rooms. The trend now is for landlords to rent out rooms in their apartments evading the Rent Stabilization Law and Code and creating safety hazards like locks on bedroom doors with access to a fire escape. I want to ensure tenant rights for roommates and legal safety standards that protect everyone.
Liens and taxes
In New York, a lien on your home without informing you. Recently, a homeowner accidentally found out a lien was placed on their home for $60,000.00 for Solar Panels. This lien was for Solar Panel and roofing. The lien company was based in California, the loan company was based in Connecticut, the Solar Panel company was based in New Jersey, the roofing company was based in Queens and the “agent” was based in Nassau county.
The lien company claimed they had a voice recording of the homeowner accepting this work and $30,000.00 was already claimed for the solar panels. No written contract of any kind was ever mailed. The lien company claimed the contract was emailed out at the was sufficient and compliant with the rules to apply the lien. After three months of following the trail and quite frankly, threatening these parties with public disclosure of these practices, an investigator of the lien company found that 6 other residents in the area had the same complaint. That is $360,000.00 being defrauded of 6 of our residents. They discovered that the “agent” imitated these people accepting these Solar Panel contracts. The only reason they realized the fraud was that one of the people he imitated was a woman. The excuse for not recognizing this sooner, said the lien agent from California was that “All New Yorkers sound alike”.
You would think that was the end of it. The lien company said there would be no liability for the amount and the lien would be lifted, which I had to follow up with three more times to ensure it was done. Then loan payments were being demanded by the loan company in Connecticut. Another month of battle with the company. And what of the Solar Panel company? No apology, just offering to come by and offer a deal. The roofing company, I found, was owned by a lawyer who ran the company out of a hardware store also owned by the lawyer. The roofing company went under multiple names and reviews stated that the owner frequently undersold then overcharged and was notorious for taking homeowners to court. Finally, the agent. Can the client sue? No information would be shared.
So we have fraud taking place across four states making it near impossible to prosecute. The lien was lifted. But this homeowner’s credit plummeted over 100 unrecoverable points. That is 100 points. The cascade result? Credit card interest rates increased to maximum 25%-35%. Credit limits were slashed pushing the credit to debt ratio from positive 10-40% to 70-90% debt. The result? Another 100 point drop in credit rating.
So for the rest of one senior’s life, there will be no appreciable credit available in case of emergency, like actually needing a new roof or getting a loan for medical bills.
I propose making it illegal to place a lien on a homeowner’s property without their knowledge. I would also make it illegal for credit reporting agencies to take liens into account until the liens status is finalized. Also, credit reporting agencies must restore credit levels to previous levels or higher in the event such fraud as has taken place with our residents takes place and is resolved.
Currently, there are no multi-state processes to prosecute and sue for damages against multi-organizational fraud for the consumers who are left with shattered bad credit scores.
Predatory solar panel deals. We need to educate consumers on power purchase agreements local contractors use to install solar panels to avoid predatory deals coming to fruition, as well as on options for renewable, safer, and cheaper energy options.
Seniors 65 years and older quality for STAR and SCHE program reductions in property tax. The problem is many seniors are unaware of this program and many more cannot manage the process. I propose that the STAR and SCHE property tax program be made automatic for seniors when they reach the age of 65.
In District 32, we have many homeowners that create makeshift parking spaces in front of their homes. Some are clever and tastefully done. Others are not. All are illegal. The fact is parking is an increasing issue in our District and many of these makeshift parking spaces relieve our congested parking conditions.
I propose a low-cost permitting solution to allow homeowners to create these parking alternatives safely and tastefully.
NYCHA, NYCHA, NYCHA
How many years have we heard of one politician or another tout the fight they have fought for NYCHA? And what? Nothing.
So what do we do? NYCHA has a $32 Billion dollar backlog on repairs. We are hit particularly hard in the Rockaways. And the contractors. Some, already arrested for jobs half done or none at all, but millions of dollars gone.
First, I want union jobs repairing our buildings and hiring our NYCHA residents to do the job. The NYCHA solution is about breaking circles. We have to put money in and keep it there. We keep it there by employing the very residents we are serving.
NYCHA policing. We have such a disconnect in this arena at times. We need to learn together, live together, work together. I propose one apartment be made available to a police officer, free of charge in every NYCHA building in our city. When we learn together, live together and work together, we have a city that is together.
Have you seen the suits? Sometimes it’s three to five people standing on the corner just across the street. Walking up the block. One writing on a pad, the other on the phone. Developers? City officials? Who knows? They don’t talk to anyone in the building. They just look at it, talk among themselves and leave.
The truth is NYCHA housing has some of the most spectacular views in the city. And the scenario is similar to the landlords that leave apartments vacant or not repaired, waiting to sell the property for a big profit.
But what if there was another solution for NYCHA buildings and residents? A few years ago, the city sold some buildings on East 4th Street between Second Avenue and Bowery to arts organizations for $1 each! That is not a typo. One building for one dollar. After purchasing the building, with the help of city capital funds and other donations, These arts organizations raised about 8 million dollars for renovations and now have state of the art facilities and now East 4th Street has become an arts & culture mini Broadway.
Now, I love the arts. It is wonderful that a bunch of arts organizations were offered city-owned buildings for $1 each. But what about us regular people? Looking for jobs, trying to raise or support a family, living paycheck to paycheck. When do we get a chance? How can I be worth more than my paycheck.
Here is my solution and it’s a big one for NYCHA residents. What if I told you I will sell you your apartment at Hammel, or Redfern or Carleton Manor or Ocean Bay or any NYCHA building for $1. It’s yours. You own the apartment. You may have to pay a little more than you are paying now for maintenance like any co-op or condo. But it’s yours. Number one. Your net worth has instantly jumped up considerably. I mean how much can the apartment be worth? $200,000, $300,000. And not just that. You owe $6,000 in credit cards and got $3,000 in the bank so your debt to credit ratio puts you at a credit rating of say 550 or so. But now you are worth $200,000. So for the first time maybe, your credit score is over 650.
Now the city is going to make available to you the same capital funding that they do to these art groups they sold buildings to. So we still need to have a board and manage the building. But it is yours. We cannot say the city cannot do it because they have already done it. There is talk all the time about privatizing NYCHA. I’m talking about real jobs and REAL wealth creation for our residents. If the city wants to sell our buildings to developers who will do absolutely nothing for us, why not sell it to us so we can do something for all?