Federal Lawsuit Targets Local Affordable Housing Preferences. Could Essex Crossing Be Impacted?

essex crossing overview

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday seeks to end the city’s practice of giving residents of local communities a preference in affordable apartment lotteries. The suit was brought on behalf of three black residents in Manhattan and claims that the policy perpetuates racial segregation.

While the three cases involved applications for affordable housing elsewhere in the borough, the case could have an impact on the Lower East Side. As you might be aware, the big Essex Crossing project on the former Seward Park urban renewal site includes 500 low- and middle-income apartments. Residents of Community District 3 (Lower East Side, East Village, Chinatown) who meet specific income requirements will receive a preference for 50% of those units.

The group pursuing the federal case, the Anti-Discrimination Center, argues that local preferences serve to keep ethnic minorities out of mostly white neighborhoods in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The organization highlighted the small number of African American residents living in many of the city’s community districts.

On the Lower East Side, the Seward Park site languished for more than 40 years, as neighborhood groups fought over the need for new affordable housing. Racial politics was always a major part of the contentious debate. Many low-income families, predominantly Latino, were displaced when the urban renewal site was bulldozed in 1967. When the community finally came together on a  compromise plan several years ago, housing for both those displaced and for other local residents was a big priority. The city agreed to a preference for former site tenants, as well as a community preference. In spite of the pressures of gentrification, the LES remains a diverse community. According to Census data, Community District 3 is 32% white, 34% Asian, 25% Latino but just 7% black.

The New York Times asked city officials to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit, but the Department of Housing Preservation and Development declined, citing the pending legal case.

4 comments to Federal Lawsuit Targets Local Affordable Housing Preferences. Could Essex Crossing Be Impacted?

  • Anon resident

    How L&M Development, BFC Partners and HPD handles the housing lottery has been a big mystery for years. Further investigation is needed.

  • Eric4354

    Whenever you restrict the market, you’re privileging some people over others, so lawsuits like this are inevitable. Get rid of “affordable housing” programs and zoning restrictions at the same time. After a couple years of building, housing will be affordable for everyone, not just for a lucky minority.

  • RoBow

    “After a couple years of building, housing will be affordable for everyone” — that’s soooo not even close to being true that all I can do is laugh.

  • Okabe

    The neighborhood was affordable until they decided to takeover small businesses, put in hundreds of bars which caused huge amounts of douches to come over, then came those hotel guys who bought buildings kicked residents out of their apartments and brought in more drug addicted douches, Property tax rises, rent prices triple, food prices quad triple, forcing tenants and long time residents to move out (go out of state or find another place). Public housing gets cut, waiting list has been over 7 years for so people. Meanwhile over 60% of NYC apartments are vacant because they are owned by people overseas who avoid tax. Dont believe me just check…. Also the neighborhood homeless shelter was recently booted and now turning into a hotel while those people are now living in the streets by pedestrian benches the city put. How is it that two banks on the edge of bankruptcy are loaning money for the Essex street crossing? I find that interesting and suspicious.