No Confidence in The City of New York? Join Us!
No Confidence in The City of New York? Join Us!
To Ms. Leilani Farha, United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and Mr. Philip Alston, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights:
We, as citizens of The City of New York, write to oppose all past, current and future city-wide luxury development and development on New York City Housing Authority land and express our lack of confidence in Mayor Bill DeBlasio's administration and these city agencies (New York City Council, Department of City Planning, Department of Homeless Services, Housing Preservation and Development, New York City Housing Authority, Department of Buildings). Furthermore, many of our elected officials and heads of city agencies have become agents of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) and real estate developers. Thus, the interests of the real estate industry and The City of New York have become one: extract as much capital as possible regardless of human suffering. We fear our current leadership cannot steer us effectively through the current multiple crises we are facing (houseless, climate change, mass displacement, food insecurity, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate public housing, mental health, racist rezoning) or the challenging years ahead.
The government of New York City and New York State have willfully been complicit in the destruction of New York City's green spaces, community fabric, communities of color, small businesses and democracy. Furthermore, both the City and State of New York have been complicit in violating the federal Fair Housing Act and international law and have been complicit in ethnic cleansing.
The secret deal, with no community input or decision-making, between Amazon and Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill Deblasio is the line drawn in the sand as it has subverted democracy and violated the trust of the people of New York City.
“This is not only an assault on Long Island City,” said the city councilman Brad Lander, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It’s not only an assault on housing affordability. It’s not only an assault on transit capacity. This is an assault on our democracy” (Durkin 2018)
Amazon will get almost $3bn in tax subsidies and tax breaks. And to have Amazon, who have worked with ICE to give them facial recognition technology, in a borough that is one of the most richly diverse places in the country, is unacceptable.
City Planning policies are policies of white supremacy targeting communities of color with rezonings then ignoring massive displacement of these communities. Time and time again almost every rezoning since 2000 led to a reduction of those populations who have protected characteristics under the Federal Fair Housing Act and an increase in the white and affluent population:
“From 2000 to 2013 the white population in the rezoning area in Williamsburg, Brooklyn increased by 73% while the Hispanic population decreased by 18%” (Angotti and Morse 2017)
“The Black population of Bedford-Stuyvesant has decreased from 75 percent in 2000 to barely 50 percent in 2015” (Ajamu 2017)
on the micro level: On the block of 136th Street between Riverside and Broadway the number of white residents increased “from 2% to 10% between 2000 and 2016, and median home values almost doubled, from $239,540 to $461,200” (Vo 2018)
on the macro level: in New York City the “African-American population declined in approximately 25 neighborhoods from 2000 to 2015” (Ajamu 2017)
Ethnic and cultural cleansing is the endgame of rezoning neighborhoods in New York City.
Every rezoning approved in communities of color have had deep community opposition under both the Bloomberg and DeBlasio administrations yet the City Council still voted in favor of these rezonings. This is a continuation of racist redlining and urban renewal policies that have been carried over into the Department of City Planning's rezoning scheme. Rezoning by itself is not comprehensive community planning and should not be the basis by which The City of New York structures our city.
The United Nations explicitly states “all persons who perpetrate or authorize crimes against humanity or other grave breaches of international humanitarian law are individually responsible for those breaches and that the international community would exert every effort to bring them to justice” (United Nations 1994). If ethnic cleansing is a crime against humanity then those responsible are many of those working at The City of New York and at real estate firms building luxury buildings in communities of color. At the minimum those responsible include:
Governor Andrew Cuomo
Mayor Bill DeBlasio
Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen
Director of the Department of City Planning, Marissa Lago
Attempts to remedy the situation have been made largely by citizens, community groups, tenant organizations and block associations with very little help form any elected official in New York City or any agency of The City of New York. But there are too many assaults on almost every community happening city-wide every day that they cannot be addressed separately. With over 60,000 houseless people and almost 75,000 vacant apartments in New York City, action must be taken NOW to end human suffering.
We demand nothing less than self-determination to make our own choices about our lives and our communities without interference or coercion from real estate interests or politicians bought and sold by this industry. Our Governor, our Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Director of City Planning and the entire City Council, among others, have failed us and only worsened our plight.
We love this city and the communities that make New York an experience like no other city in the history of the world. This is our home and we intend to stay here and rebuild from the ground up. We call on the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, Ms. Leilani Farha and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Mr. Philip Alston to STOP ALL REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT CONTRIBUTING TO MASSIVE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN NEW YORK CITY AND RETURN THE MAJORITY OF LAND TO THE LONG-STANDING RESIDENTS OF THIS CITY. OUR CITY AND STATE GOVERNMENT HAS NO SUCH LEADERSHIP TO DO THIS AND BY SHOW OF ITS' ACTIONS DOES NOT CARE ABOUT HUMAN SUFFERING IN NEW YORK CITY AND HAS FAILED SOCIETY.
We, as people that value our ecosystems and our humanity, declare ourselves in rebellion against our city and state government, their agencies, Amazon and any corrupt corporations or organizations that threaten dignified life in New York City.
The People of The City of New York
Ajamu A (2017) Gentrification is Ethnic Cleansing. The New York Amsterdam News 7 September – 13 September
Angotti T and Morse S (ed) (2017) Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York City. New York: Terreform
Danner M (1997) America and the Bosnia Genocide. The New York Review of Books 4 December
Durkin E (2018) New York City to Amazon: drop dead. The Guardian 18 November
United Nations. Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1994) Final Report of the Commission of Experts Established Pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 to Investigate Violations of International Humanitarian Law in the Former Yugoslavia 27 May
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and U.S. Department of Justice. (2016) Joint Statement Of The Department of Housing and Urban Development And The Department of Justice: State and Local Land Use Laws and Practices and the Application of the Fair Housing Act 10 November
Vo T L (2018) They Played Dominoes Outside Their Apartment For Decades. Then The White People Moved In And Police Started Showing Up. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/lamvo/gentrification-complaints-311-new-york (last accessed 2 September 2018)
Wareham R (2018) 'Gentrification' is Ethnic Cleansing. The New York Amsterdam News 10 May – 16 May
Widdison R, Becker J and Conte E (2018) Flawed Findings: How NYC's Approach to Measuring Displacement Risk Fails Communities New York: Pratt Center for Community Development.
Return the land to the long-standing residents of this city so we can have self-determination to make our own choices about our lives and our communities without interference or coercion from real estate interests or politicians bought and sold by this industry.