According to The New York Times, the de Blasio administration and NYCHA chief Shola Olatoye are planning to stare down the city's estimated 400,000 public housing residents over one of their chief perks: $10 reserved parking spots.
As I wrote in City & State last November:
Public housing parking lots occupy some of the city’s most valuable real estate, but when it comes to addressing the city’s housing crisis, preserving $5 monthly parking spots for NYCHA residents is considered sacred....
After all, while parking spaces for NYCHA tenants are a great amenity for the residents, it is hard to argue that these parking lots are the most efficient use of space for cash-poor NYCHA. Renting the spots certainly doesn’t bring a lot of revenue: NYCHA residents pay as little as $60 for unreserved parking spots—per year....
Public housing denizens are highly protective of their subsidized apartments, which are often handed down through the generations. Even attempts to reallocate underutilized apartments, where a senior citizen may live alone in a three-bedroom unit, are met with suspicion and hostility from the tenants and the elected officials who depend on the votes of these well organized blocs....
Check out the transcripts of the April 2013 Public Housing Committee hearings if you are interested in the highly paranoid contemporary discourse around urban housing and displacement.
Council members, including the present Speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and the current public advocate, Letitia James, filed suit to prevent the Infill plan from going forward. Then Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, calling the plan “counterproductive,” indicated he would put the brakes on any NYCHA land leasing, and the project was basically killed.
At the hearing last week the role of NYCHA in the expansion of affordable housing was addressed obliquely and wistfully. Council members clearly understand that some form of infill would be a wise use of the “asset management matrix,” as Speaker Mark-Viverito referred to it, but politically it is a third rail. Too bad, because at the rate it is going, the administration is a long way from attaining 200,000 affordable units.
The Mayor took heat last week for his plan to let DYCD and DFTA take over the management of some five dozen NYCHA-based community centers. Public Housing Committee Chair Ritchie Torres was joined by several colleagues and union officials in complaining about the supposed "privatization" of services that the mayor's plan would entail.
As Will Bredderman reported in The Observer:
“There’s uncertainty about what the state of those centers is going to be,” said Mr. Torres, a native of public housing, claiming many public housing residents have complained of their dealings with private contractors. “When you privatize services, you’re undercutting the municipal labor force, and then something is lost and you can’t measure it in dollars and cents.”
Whenever elected officials complain about "privatization" their words bear close scrutiny. The implication is that "private" means "for-profit," whereas it is nearly certain that any group that assumes direct management of the community centers will be a not-for-profit social services organization, most likely with existing roots in the community.
As far as the intangibles that Torres refers to, surely he isn't suggesting that the existing municipal workers provide such astounding services in the community centers that they are truly irreplaceable. Every time a municipal union worker is threatened with replacement, we are warned of imminent disaster. It is Reagan firing PATCO all over again, only this time, instead of a spike in air disasters, the senior center lunches will no longer offer a choice of dessert, and the new managers will provide cost-cutting pingpong balls for the Foosball table.
If de Blasio and Olatoye are serious about facing down NYCHA's enormous bloc of rent-seeking residents, then more power to them. But they better be expecting significant blowback, because it will surely be fierce.