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NYCHA Residents Rally to Fight Federal Budget Cuts to Public Housing

Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn) speaks at rally on steps of City Hall. (Photo by Pete Mikoleski)

“We have power in public housing!”

That motto exclaimed by Reginald Bowman, the President of the Citywide Council of Presidents, summed up the feelings of the NYCHA residents who gathered on November 10, 2011, on the steps of City Hall to speak out against proposed federal budget cuts to public housing across the country.

Council Member Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan) addresses crowd from steps of City Hall. (Photo by Pete Mikoleski)

“There comes a time when you have to stand up and fight for your homes,” Mr. Bowman said, while standing in front of a banner that read ‘Vote 4 New Hope – Power in Public Housing.’  “The landlord for public housing – the federal government – has a moral obligation and a political commitment to our families.”

Congress currently is writing the spending plan for next year.  Federalization – the mixed-finance deal that allows NYCHA to fund 21 former City and State developments with federal money – may be eliminated.  The House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for funding public housing is proposing to end Federalization, which would take away needed funds from NYCHA.  The bill proposes that any units federalized by the federal stimulus program, also known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), would no longer receive any operating, capital or Section 8 assistance – now or in the future.

NYCHA and public housing residents have allies in Congress.  Among them is Edolphus Towns (D-Brooklyn), who sent a letter recently to the Appropriations Subcommittee that was signed by 11 of his New York City colleagues, asking for the provision to be removed.  “If living in public housing is not an option, the City will have to build more shelters for the tens of thousands of people who would become homeless,” Congressman Towns said at the rally.  “We must be for the needy and not the greedy.”

At the local level, members of the City Council's Public Housing Committee are supporting the residents’ efforts.  “It is so important that we send a strong voice to the federal government that this is a national resource and a national treasure that we have to preserve,” Council Member Margaret Chin (D-Manhattan) told the crowd.

Residents also are organizing a trip to Washington, DC, on November 16 to meet with Congress members about the proposed funding cuts.  “It is essential for every development to have its funding,” said Laurine Berry, the Resident Association President at Monroe Houses in the Bronx.  “I’ve been in public housing for more than 50 years and I’m fighting not just for my development, but for every development, for our children.”

To read NYCHA Chairman John B. Rhea’s message about the proposed funding cuts, click here to see the November issue of the Journal.

By Eric Deutsch
November 15, 2011

NYCHA Federalization