A long-running war of words between a LES-based advocacy group and City Council member Margaret Chin is becoming more intense. Yesterday, a protest took place outside Chin’s office, at 250 Broadway, orchestrated by the organization, National Mobilization Against Sweatshops. For some time, NMASS has been circulating flyers with the provocative headline, “Meet Your Greedy Racist City Council Member Margaret Chin.”
At issue is a stark difference of opinion concerning the Seward Park Mixed-Use Development Plan, which Chin helped push through the City Council last year. Developers are now preparing proposals for the mixed-use project near the Williamsburg Bridge. After years of contentious debate, Community Board 3 finally agreed to build 50% market rate and 50% affordable housing on the parcel, as well as a large amount of commercial space.
Here’s the text of the flyer:
…Chin recently led the City to shut out Latinos, African Americans, and other workers and poor families of the Lower East Side and Chinatown. 70% of housing to be built on SPURA will have rents of $2,500-$6,000 a month. This is economic racism. Even though 10,000 residents of LES and Chinatown spoke out and signed petitions demanding 100% low-income housing on SPURA, Chin refused to listen. She in- sulted petition signers, many of whom were Latinos and African Americans, implying that they were too stupid to understand the petitions that they signed. This is not the first time that Margaret Chin has shut us out, both as City Council Member and previously as deputy director of Asian Americans For Equality (AAFE). She helped create Bloomberg’s racist East Village rezoning plan, which excluded the Latinos, African Americans and Chinese of our community from protection from luxury high-rise development. This plan has brought a wave of luxury condos and hotels. She refused to support the People First Re- zoning Plan to limit the building of luxury condos in the area, even though the plan was endorsed by the Chinatown Working Group, a planning group created by the City. She supported the sale and leasing of NYCHA property— most recently, the City announced plans to build luxury housing on five NYCHA lots in LES this year. She endorsed both the Lower East Side and Chinatown Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), and the expansion of New York Uni- versity, making it impossible for local busi- nesses to survive. As a result, we have to pay more for goods and services. Chin has done everything that her rich de- veloper friends want her to. If we let Chin continue with Bloomberg’s agenda, we, our children, and our grandchildren will not have the chance to live in new housing in our own community–just because we are people of color and poor. If Margaret Chin has her way, LES will become the land of the rich.
In response, Chin has released the following open letter:
I want to take this opportunity to combat the false and defamatory statements by “People’s First NYC” and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS). The blatant falsehoods that these groups are trying to sell to our community are an insult to residents of the Lower East Side. The members of this community are informed – and proactive – and we will not buy in to divisive, empty rhetoric by People’s First and NMASS.
As your Council Member, I work hard to ensure that the day-to-day operations of my office are transparent, and that I remain accountable to the voters who elected me. Over my term in office, I have worked to develop affordable housing on the Lower East Side; to bring good paying jobs to our community; to address quality of life issues; and fund community based organizations that serve the Black, Latino, and Asian communities in lower Manhattan. I am proud of the relationships I have with our Tenant Associations; our Settlement Houses; and our community activists.
As an Executive Member of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus of the City Council, I have proven my commitment to advancing policies and campaigns that are important to the City’s Black, Latino and Asian communities. As I member of this Caucus, I have called for an end to the Police Department’s policy of “Stop, Question, and Frisk,” and have stood up against WalMart and their unfair labor practices, which disproportionally affect minorities and women. Last year, I led the organization of a job fair and small business seminar for the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, and I look forward doing so again this year. I also help pass a bill to prohibit employers from not hiring someone just because they are currently unemployed.
As a member of the Council’s Committee on Public Housing, I proudly work alongside my colleague, Council Member Rosie Mendez, to protect and improve public housing in our City. I have secured $800,000 to enhance security in NYCHA developments on the Lower East Side, including security cameras, upgrades to intercoms and layered access. Most recently, I spearheaded a letter that was signed by Manhattan elected officials and sent to Mayor Bloomberg calling on the City to reconsider the timeline of NYCHA’s Infill development plan; to release documents related to this plan to the public; to hold meetings with NYCHA residents; and to incorporate feedback from existing NYCHA residents into any development plan.
As your Council Member, I negotiated the inclusion of over 500 units of affordable housing in Seward Park Urban Renewal Area (SPURA). These units are guaranteed to be permanently affordable. They will never “age out” and will never revert to market rate rent. Thirty percent of these units will be reserved for families making less than $49,000 a year, and/or individuals and seniors with an income of less than $34,000 a year. The remaining 20 percent of units will go to middle-income and working families, including teachers, construction workers, police and firemen and women. A mixture of affordable housing for low-income and middle-income families at the SPURA site was overwhelmingly supported by Community Board 3 and Lower East Side residents.
It was important to me to create affordable housing for working families who cannot afford outrageous market rate rents. I believe this is an admirable goal, and I hope I can count on your support for building even more affordable housing in our community that serves a variety of residents. By doing this, we can ensure that the Lower East Side remains an economically diverse neighborhood for decades to come.
These groups: People’s First and NMASS, have spread misinformation that NYCHA is seeking to “sell” NYCHA property. No land is being sold as part of the development plan being presented by NYCHA, and furthermore, I do not support the sale of NYCHA property to private developers.
They have said I created the East Village Rezoning Plan, which is flatly untrue. I was not even in office when the Council approved this plan in 2008.
They have said the Lower East Side Business Improvement District and the Chinatown Business Improvement District (BID) hurt local businesses, when in fact, these BIDs promote and support small businesses in our community.
In the years ahead, as your City Council representative, I will continue to fight for the needs of the Lower East Side and for legislation that directly benefits members of our community, like, providing paid sick time for workers, and ending employment discrimination based on credit. More importantly, if you ever have a question about where I stand on the issues, I urge you to call my office and ask. I also welcome you to visit me during my open hours at 165 Park Row, every Friday, from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM.
Chin’s letter was accompanied with statements from Nancy Ortiz, tenant president at the Vladeck Houses, and the City Council’s Black, Latino & Asian Caucus. Click on the links to see the text of those letters.