Neighborhood Chatter

Written by Our Town Downtown on . Posted in News Our Town Downtown, Our Town Downtown.


Compiled by Naomi Cohen

LES Residents Sue City Over Carrying Charges
Masaryk Towers, a Lower East Side co-op, offer hundreds of New Yorkers affordable housing in its six high-rises. All of its residents are low- to middle-income, and almost half of them are senior citizens. So it came as a shock to many when the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development (HPD) raised the building’s carrying charges by 11 percent in March 2011, and then 15 months later by an additional 18 percent. New York housing law states that there must be a two-year gap between increases in carrying charges.

According to the Urban Justice Center, nearly 200 residents have now filed a suit against the HPD, saying that not only was the hike illegal, but it occurred without notifying residents or allowing them to partake in a public hearing, to which they have a legal right.

“Masaryk Towers is supposed to be affordable housing. If HPD won’t follow its own laws, what protections do residents have against arbitrary increases?” resident Maria Muentes said in a statement. Under the announced hikes, shareholders of two-bedroom apartments will have to pay $150 more a month, on top of last year’s 11 percent increase.
Attorneys from the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project filed the suit last week in the Manhattan Supreme Court, aided by housing advocates from the Good Old Lower East Side (GOLES). GOLES is a local housing and preservation organization founded in 1977. Members of the Community Development Project (CDP) have come out strongly in defense of the residents.

“The Mitchell-Lama corporation flagrantly violated the city’s rules that are supposed to protect certain due process rights,” said Shafaq Islam, a member of the CDP. Shareholders explained in a statement that such hikes were particularly unwelcome amid a recession.

Report on MTA Shows Tough Fare Hikes Planned
The New York State comptroller released a report last week showing that while the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s finances are in better shape than they were two years ago, there’s still a long way to go; unfortunately, the MTA’s prospective path to fiscal sustainability will include more fare hikes. In 2010, fares went up by 7.5 percent. The report announced that over the next three years, fares are expected to increase by 14 percent. That means MetroCard prices will reportedly rise at three times the rate of inflation.

The first increase is planned for March of next year, and is expected to bring in an additional $450 million a year. But just to keep the transit system in safe condition, the MTA will need to raise an estimated minimum of $20 billion between 2015 and 2019, the report detailed.

The transit authority will also be cutting expenses by charging one dollar for each new MetroCard, which they hope will be an incentive to refill used cards and waste less material. While the report suggests that the MTA’s budget may require such hikes, it seems many New Yorkers will soon be tightening their own wallets to adapt to the higher costs.

City Celebrates Warship
On Saturday, Oct. 6, the USS Michael Murphy became the Navy’s newest commissioned warship, and the occasion was marked with a week of celebrations including parachute jumps over the Hudson River, cannon salutes at Pier 88 and bell ringing at the New York Stock Exchange.

According to the commissioning committee’s website, the festivities bring the ship to life and mark the entrance of a new man-of-war into the nation’s naval forces.

The name of the warship honors a Navy SEAL who died in 2005 while serving in Afghanistan. Murphy, the first winner of the Medal of Honor for the war in Afghanistan, was shot while trying to transmit a call for help. The crew of the newly launched guided missile destroyer paid respects on Oct. 2 by visiting commemorative sites in Smithtown, Murphy’s hometown.

Murphy is also honored with the name of a park and post office on Long Island, a combat training pool in Newport and a veterans’ plaza at Penn State University, his alma mater.

Redistricting Could Divide Minority Communities
By Nick Powell for City and State
A controversial proposal to redraw New York City Council district lines could violate the city charter and split African-American and Latino communities, critics say.

Community Voices Heard—an organization that advocates for low-income New Yorkers—warned that the proposed redistricting map would create smaller council districts in the Bronx and Queens in favor of larger ones in Manhattan and possibly disenfranchise some voting blocs, such as East Harlem. Under the proposal, East Harlem would be divided roughly in half, with part of it falling in Council District 8, and part in Council District 9.

“When you look at communities of interest and keeping the Latino vote together and the African-American vote together, it seems like the Latino vote here, while on paper it would hit the 50 percent-plus-one mark that meets the Department of Justice standards, it would break up the community in East Harlem,” the organization said in a statement.
Hearings will be held all month, allowing the public to comment on the proposed changes, followed by an up-or-down vote by the City Council in November. If approved, the maps will first be used in the 2013 citywide elections, when many council seats will be up for grabs because of term limits.

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