Advocates press for affordable housing Downtown

By Jane Flanagan

Affordable housing advocates held signs during last week’s meeting of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp.

Practically the only thing clear about the future of community life in Lower Manhattan is that there will be a heckuva lot more people here.

But just who will be moving in, how the housing construction will be paid for and whether the schools and parking lots can withstand the influx is a matter of debate.

At the moment there are 14 residential rental construction projects that have applied for tax-free Liberty Bonds for Lower Manhattan. That’s more than 3,300 apartments. Some of the new projects are huge like the 40-story building that would go up behind P.S. 234 on Chambers St., a structure roughly equivalent in height to the World Financial Center. Others include a 50-story building on Platt St. in the Financial District and 490 units that would be constructed on West St. between Desbrosses and Watts Sts. in north Tribeca.

“How will the schools accommodate them?” said Tom Goodkind, a member of Community Board 1’s youth committee.

A lot of this housing will be constructed with the aid of government dollars. In a desire to revitalize lower Manhattan as quickly as possible, federal grants and tax-free bonds are being awarded. The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation was given $2 billion in grants for various revitalization projects, and has spent $700,000 million so far. Housing advocates say they would like to see part of the remaining $1.3 billion spent on housing for low or moderate income people.

The L.M.D.C., however, has not said if it will spend part of the money on affordable housing.

Deputy Mayor Daniel Doctoroff said the mayor is proceeding with his plan to create and preserve 65,000 units of affordable housing around the city and he thinks the L.M.D.C. will help fund the program. “I’m hopeful that’ll be the case,” Doctoroff said last week. Reportedly, he has requested about $200 million for housing

Housing advocates want the Liberty Bond money designated for low to moderate-income people, as well, and so far that is not happening.

“Gov. Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg have turned their back on working New Yorkers,” said Bettina Damiani, of Good Jobs New York, who spoke at an early morning press conference last Thursday. Good Jobs New York is one of several organizations to form the “Liberty Bond Housing Coalition,” pressing the case for affordable housing in Lower Manhattan. Damiani said when advocates realized how much money would be coming in and how many new residential projects would be going up, they formed the alliance to try and help shape the future of things to come.

“They are creating only luxury housing,” she said. “All of Lower Manhattan will be a zone of exclusion.” The press conference convened outside 1 Liberty Plaza before the start of the L.M.D.C. monthly board meeting.


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