Affordable housing, historic preservation, and neighborhood organizations representing a cross-section of New Yorkers joined forces today to hold a press conference in front of the Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY) headquarters slamming what they say is the board’s recent campaign to paint landmarking as undermining New York City’s affordability, and the cause of a reduction in the economic and racial diversity of New York’s residents.
REBNY, a long-time opponent of landmark preservation and as well as affordable housing protections, recently released a report [pdf] claiming that landmark protections make New York City neighborhoods unaffordable and less diverse. Speakers refuted this claim, saying that landmarking can actually help protect the social and economic diversity of neighborhoods. REBNY’s stance is hypocritical, they said, given their opposition to other efforts to preserve the diversity of New York’s neighborhoods.
“Once again, the real estate barons couch their attempts to enhance their already huge profits in language designed to fool the public, expecting us to believe that they actually care about creating more affordable housing when it is clear all they care about is being able to build more and more market rate housing. Their attack on the landmarks preservation law, an essential protection for New York City and our neighborhoods, does not pass the laugh test,” Michael McKee of the Tenants Political Action Committee, said in a statement to the press.
Robert Martin of the Chelsea Coalition on Housing argued that landmarking has the effect of putting a brake on “developers’ insatiable drive to build luxury high rises and driving current tenants out of their neighborhood in the process.”
Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation said, “REBNY’s false claims are simply not borne out by the facts. The areas of our neighborhood where we’ve seen the most rapid gentrification have been those which lack landmark protections. Residents of our two main affordable housing developments – Westbeth and 505 LaGuardia Place – actually clamored for and got landmark designation. New Yorkers want landmark protections because it preserves the character of their neighborhoods. REBNY opposes landmark protections because they want to preserve their ability to tear down and build anything they want, anywhere, any time, no matter the consequences for our city or our neighborhoods.”
Simeon Bankoff of the Historic Districts Council said, “REBNY has a long history of fighting against communities. They would happily sacrifice stability, security and history for the possibility of a profit, damaging the public to benefit the few. They have campaigned against neighborhood interests for decades and seem dead set on transforming New York City into a forest of high-rises inhabited by the mega-wealthy.”
Those gathered today promised to rebut REBNY’s claims to the incoming New York City administration, and to advocate for real responses to the City’s affordability crisis while also strengthening and expanding landmark protections to preserve New York City’s neighborhoods.
Photo: (l. to r.) Harvey Epstein, Urban Justice Center; Michael McKee, Tenants Political Action Committee; Katy Bordonaro, Tenant Advocate and Affordable Housing Activist; Andrew Berman, Executive Director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation; Robert Martin, Chelsea Coalition on Housing. Courtesy Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation.