GUILTY! GUILTY! GUILTY! Mayor Bloomberg Found Guilty by A People's Court
Tuesday, July 1, 2008;
Guilty! That was the verdict at the mock trial of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg commemorating the four-year anniversary of his "Five Year Plan" to end homelessness in New York. Judges and witnesses from the Coalition to Save Harlem, Picture the Homeless and the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing gathered at 50th Street and Lexington Ave holding banners and signs while the Mayor was tried in Absentia by a jury of his houseless peers. The groups got together in an effort to flip the script on a system that uses hygienic metaphors and phrases such as "blight" and "We have to clean up the neighborhood" to describe and justify the criminalization of houseless people.
"I would like to say unequivocally that this plan has failed" said Episcopal Archdeacon Michael Kendall, a witness for the prosecution. "This city has turned its back on the poor. Homeless people are being turned away from shelter. I spoke with one woman who was told she wasn't really homeless--she could go sleep in her mother's bathtub and put her baby in the sink. So how can Mayor Bloomberg say that this plan is working?"
The number of apartments in empty buildings exceeds the number of homeless households in New York. The Mayor's plan was to revolutionize homeless services and significantly reduce the city's homeless population. According to New York's Department of Homeless Services statistics, the projected decreases in people and families "Experiencing Homelessness" have not come to fruition. New York City Council member Tony Avella concurs. "What is the Mayor doing in every neighborhood? Putting up high rise luxury housing. That doesn't benefit the people who live in those neighborhoodsï¿½it hurts them. When the Mayor talks about affordable housing, it's an absolute joke".
"The housing market has not crashed in New York like it has in California" said Lynn Lewis, Director of Picture the Homeless. "Under rent stabilization, the city just approved the biggest increase in rent since 1989ï¿½4.5% on a 1 year lease and 8.5% on 2 year leases. People with the lowest rent are getting hit the hardest".
"Mayor Bloomberg has a vision for the city" testified Karim Abdul Muhammad of the Coalition to Save Harlem. "And it doesn't' include us. It's a vision best expressed in the proposed 125th street rezoning planï¿½which says that development should suit the interests of real estate and big business, and long time low income residents need to get out of the way".
Mayor Bloomberg and more than 60 employees of his administration were requested to attend or submit material to testify for the defense. The requests were unanswered.
On June 20th, both chambers of the New York State legislature passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation that eradicates a major incentive for landlords to keep property vacant as a means of real estate speculation. The bill removes the current special tax treatment for vacant land north of 110th Street in Manhattan... Taxing these properties at normal rates will produce an estimated $5 million in new revenues. The bill also features a component to incentivize the development of affordable units on these sites.
This legislation is a direct result of our Housing Campaign's work to stop landlords from keeping buildings empty. The bill was developed at the behest of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, after his collaboration with Picture the Homeless in developing and executing the first-ever Manhattan Abandoned Building and Vacant Lot Count. Following this count, which revealed enough potential apartments in vacant buildings and lots in Manhattan alone to house the entire homeless population of New York City, six separate city and state legislative initiatives were introduced to tackle the problem... including the "Housing, Not Warehousing" Legislation, written by Picture the Homeless and Council Member Tony Avella: http://www.picturethehomeless.org/housing
This article marks the launch of PNN's National Poverty, Racism and Resistance Report (NPRRR!!)