Wednesday, October 4

Testimony Presented to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer on the Proposed Rezoning of East Harlem, July 13, 2017


Gale, we want your support to help save our beloved East Harlem, just like when you fought for your West Side neighborhood back in the day. We want you to join us in objecting to the City’s plan to gentrify this community with a MIDDLE-CLASS housing plan that does not reflect OUR needs.
Gale Brewer
We’re tired of all the “plansplaining,” as Sam Stein so eloquently describes it. We DO understand MIH, ZQA and FAR, but what those acronyms really mean is: “Missing in Harlem,” “Zero Quality Assurance,” and “Favor All Realtors.” We HAVE crunched the numbers, but the math just doesn’t add up. (A 30% AMI ($32,000) income threshold, for example, still amounts to ZERO new housing for low-income and homeless people.) We HAVE looked at the big picture, and we can clearly see that it doesn’t include us.
Peter Minuit once boasted that he’d acquired the island of Manhattan by “paying off the locals” with a few trinkets. Ironically, the City would now have us “trade” one of the last few relatively affordable communities in Manhattan for the promise of a few “token” apartments.
East Harlem was founded as an affordable haven for low-income people. Most of the immigrant groups that settled here, ELECTED to leave. Today, poor black and brown residents don’t really have that privilege.
We are the African-American descendants of Seneca Village, driven from their homes by the developers of Central Park. We are the Puerto Rican Diaspora, STILL being exiled by U.S. corporate interests. We are Central and South American immigrants seeking sanctuary in this “land of opportunity.”
This city (and country) was founded on the violent displacement of people of color. We CANNOT, and WILL NOT, let it happen again.
Some politicians call activists who oppose ANY rezoning “leftist thugs.” But, you know what’s REALLY extreme?

  • Racist rezoning of 14 low-income communities of color! Now. that’s extreme!
  • 35-story, mostly market-rate skyscrapers all along Third Avenue! That’s extreme!
  • Being displaced at the rate of 4- or even 3-to-1 (20-25% “affordable” set-asides vs. 75-80% market-rate units)!That’s extreme!

The Mayor recently said he finds people asking for money disconcerting. You know what’s REALLY “off-putting?”

  • Urban renewal (which James Baldwin once dubbed “Negro removal programs,” and others today call “ethnic cleansing”). Now that’s off-putting!
  • Encouraging massive increases in the number of high-priced properties in low-income communities and calling it “desegregation!” That’s off-putting!
  • Losing our cultural legacy and hard-earned voting power! That’s off-putting!

We are here because Assata [Shakur] taught us: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
We are here because Esperanza Martell (with whom you’ve worked for many years), taught us that It’s about creating possibilities, being willing to seem ridiculous in your empirical beliefs, learning to embrace being uncomfortable with (progressive change), and daring to make the (seemingly) impossible a reality!
Gale Brewer: Although you will cast no official “vote,” you DO Have the Power … To Just Say NO to ANY Rezoning!
You can help us put an end to the charade!

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