As the analysis of Mayor Bloomberg’s legacy continues in the coming months and years, low-income communities of color like mine will surely remember one thing about this final year in particular: the Mayor is presiding over a virtual fire sale of City-owned land which stands to deprive our communities of vital services and open space.
In El Barrio/East Harlem alone, we are seeing four parcels of NYCHA land being considered for luxury development (including one where a busy community center operates), the sale of a Human Resources Administration Multi-Service Center, the closure and unclear fate of the East Harlem District Public Health Office building, and the tearing down of a school serving over-age and under-credited youth to make way for more luxury housing. These are not just buildings and parcels of land; they represent direct services to the El Barrio/East Harlem community.
Mayor Bloomberg has made privatization a hallmark of his administration, which has been most salient in his administration’s rampant contracting out of municipal services. But in this final year, we are watching as this agenda goes into overdrive in an effort to have the next administration inherit as many of these projects as possible, when it might be too late to stop them. The net effect of these proposals is a dismantling of the local social service infrastructure that is so vital to low-income communities like mine.
If these development projects are carried out, not only will my community almost certainly see a reduction in social services and open space, but we will also see an acceleration in the displacement of local residents as El Barrio is increasingly marketed as an extension of the Upper East Side.
A most absurd example of these proposed development projects is one that would raze the School of Cooperative Technical Education, which only recently received millions of dollars in city-funded capital upgrades, so that a 40-story luxury tower could take its place. In itsRequest for Expressions of Interest, the city’s Educational Construction Fund reported that the area surrounding the school — just two blocks south of a housing development where NYCHA has proposed its infill development plan — has a median income of over $107,000.
And these types of deals are not only happening in my district. The Brooklyn Public Library had also proposed the sale of the historic Pacific branch for private development, which was recently averted (for the time being) in an agreement with the City Council.
In this final year of the Bloomberg administration, it’s hard not to feel like our communities’ public resources are under assault. If all of the aforementioned development projects in El Barrio/East Harlem are able to proceed unchecked and with no regard for needs of the communities, there will be serious consequences with regard to my district’s already fragile infrastructure.
This is a moment for everyone to come together — elected officials, community boards and local residents — to push back on this final frontier of Bloomberg-era privatization and to get commitments from all mayoral candidates that they will halt these efforts once in office and help protect our public assets.
NYC Council Member, 8th District