Housing Inequity, Death And Tax Breaks: A Tale Of Two Queens Areas

Astoria Houses

Thanksgiving, the symbolic holiday where all beings partake in communal gratitude and partake in sharing of the bountiful harvest of food and shelter. But on the east and west sides of Queens, it’s a theory that’s as good as dead.

An apartment building at The Astoria Houses are currently without gas and tenants have been without heat and hot water for a month. Despite the typical dragging of responsive service from NYCHA management to restore their utility they pay rent for, elected officials have been comparably unresponsive. This craven indifference continued until it got the attention of PIX News and a visit from streaming independent news channel Status Coup when a charity group were serving trays of hot food on catering tables at the front entrance at the building with the gas outage.

Then a few days later, a non-profit organization Queens Together arrived tagged along by elected officials arrived to bring some charity of their own. District City Councilman Costa Costantidas, House Representative Carolyn Maloney and newly elected Queens Borough President Donovan Richards arrived with bags of food, PPE’s and 48 crockpots for all the tenants deprived of gas services from the city’s biggest slumlord NYCHA, who supplied their vulnerable residents with single burner hot plates for sustenance.

While crockpots are an improvement over the cheap ass hot plates the tenants it still an immensely poor substitute for action that’s expected from elected officials.Because after their cameo appearances the gas still remained shut down. That three of them showed up so late to aid their constituents in need and come by with crockpots to do a photo op instead of demanding accountability from NYCHA only validated how insignificant their presence was despite their status as lawmakers.

And these lawmakers were just as invisible when it came to the city’s policy for new development that still goes wanting by hundreds of thousands of residents; because a mere 5 blocks north from the Astoria Houses, de Blasio’s NYC Housing program is debuting and opened the lottery for their latest “affordable housing” building with one and two bedrooms with rents ranging from $2,050 to $2,500, all set up for a lucky person or couple earning between 70 and 130 large.

But the luckiest person or LLC who/that developed this tower got a nice 421-a tax exemption from the city for being philanthropic enough to set aside 20-30% of these apartments from this lux building for higher income earning housing starved folks. Who knows how much of the city’s largess went to this developer that could have went to a get a new boiler sooner at Astoria Houses. I bet it would have bought a lot of crockpots.

Even though those donated crockpots look nice, what are people going to do if the power goes out? Or if those crockpots are defective? The only thing Costa, Carolyn and Donnie and that foodie non-profit contributed besides marginal aid for the 48 tenants still without gas utilities were nice optics for themselves.(While Rep. Crowley above quipped that a “single-burner hotplate is simply not a solution”, a crockpot is barely an improvement either. The most they can do with them is be able to boil water faster to bathe and wash dishes with. It’s just another remnant of neoliberal based civic policies that are starving essential services for the vulnerable.

Meanwhile across the river in Flushing, an expansive swath of luxury hyper-development by a filthy toxic creek is being planned and vociferously lobbied and pushed by a Chinese real estate consortium, departing term limited councilman Peter Koo and tainted community board leadership who have a conflict of interest with the land grab (and will resort to violence and intimidation to get this approved) that the city is eager to fast track. It’s layout includes behemoth towers and hotels with a morsel of “affordable” apartments for the consortium to cash in on the sweet 421a break.

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Even though a few other “affordable” luxury towers have already been planted and another in it’s nascent skeletal phase, presumably the developers and the city are all champing at the bit to get this done because they are building these towers to provide equity to low income earning people in desperate need for housing even if that amount is menial. It’s also to “revive” the neighborhood even though it’s one of the highest populated neighborhoods in Queens and arguably the busiest. Naturally this hyper-development that’s being steamrolled has been met with stiff resistance and frequent protests.

But it’s a lot busier on the low end these days in Flushing thanks to COVID19. With 20% of NYC citizens unemployed since the contagion claimed over 30,000 lives and suspended and destroyed small businesses since the first lockdown began in March, lines for a food pantry run by La Journada go on for blocks and blocks. And blocks. And blocks. These people might not have gas outages at their homes, but it’s clear they have to prioritize rent over food because of their existential economic stasis to keep themselves sheltered.

As for the non-sheltered, the homeless population in Flushing as well as most of Eastern Queens continues to amass. Although the city Department Of Homeless Services policy’s past reliance on hotels to shelter people has become a necessity because of the pandemic, many homeless people still prefer to sleep rough on the sidewalks or parks and in inclement weather than to stay in hotel shelters that aren’t safe from violence or infection. Which led to this horrific sight nearby a public housing building, when a citizen found a homeless man frozen dead in a fetal position sheltered by a makeshift shelter made of cardboard boxes furnished with a pillow and blanket underneath him.

Pedro Rodriguez Facebook

Housing and food insecurity and the existential fear of being penniless and dying on the street surely shouldn’t be happening in the wealthiest country in the world and with the Dow Jones at 30,000.

It surely shouldn’t be happening at all in the greatest city in the world with a Democrat majority with alleged progressive values that were elected and appointed to government offices. As this pandemic has exposed even more regarding housing in New York City, these officials inaction has enabled these neoliberal based civic policies prioritizing the needs of a fantasized populace than the one that already exists and all their superficial actions establishes them as the posers they are, and the ramifications from them are leaving devastation, depression and death in it’s wake. The difference now is that they no longer are capable of obscuring it.

Because while Thanksgiving comes only once a year, the laws enacted by fauxgressives favoring the developer overlords assures that everyday is Black Friday for public housing residents, the working poor, the aged and the destitute of Queens and the rest of the five boroughs.

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