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Mayor De Blasio Housing Plan Unpopular with Activists


Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing proposal is waiting for a vote from the City Council. The Mandatory Inclusion Housing plan, or MIH, is deeply unpopular with the activists that helped get de Blasio elected in twenty-thirteen. Now their relationship  with the mayor is in question. Reporter Stephan Bisaha stopped by a faith based activist group praying over the proposal.

BISAHA: Bernice Swinton greets arrivals with a hug as they enter Saint Paul’s chapel. Swinton works with the group Faith in New York. It’s Thursday morning, and they’re holding a teach-in just a few blocks from City Hall. The subject: MIH, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing plan. Faith in New York supports affordable housing, but they’re far from satisfied with what’s being proposed.

SWINTON: Mayor de Blasio came in and he was shaking his head in agreement but when the shovel started hitting the dirt it was a completely different turn around coming from him.

BISAHA: MIH mandates that any new building in New York City must reserve 25 percent of its units for affordable housing. Most activists agree that’s great. But they disagree on the definition of affordable. Under the mayor’s plan, two bedroom apartments would be reserved for families making up to about forty-seven thousand dollars a year. Swinton says that’s too high for her and her neighbors in Long Island City.

SWINTON: I don’t think it works very well with my income or the income of others who live in the neighborhood.

BISAHA: The debate over the plan reached a boiling point last week when the City Council held two days of hearings packed with public testimony.

((Sound: Protesters  inside city hall))

BISAHA: Well over two-hundred people signed up to testify. The council tried to stagger speakers between those against the housing plan, like Make the Road New York…

LOPEZ: We cannot support MIH as written.

BISAHA:  … and those who were for it, like Regional Plan Association…

SANCHEZ: I’m here to testify in support of mandatory inclusionary housing.

BISAHA: But it wasn’t long before the council ran out of voices in support of MIH. At one point, Councilman David Greenfield, said affordable housing advocates were not giving the administration enough credit.

GREENFIELD: 12 years ago you would have thrown a ticker tape parade for whomever the mayor was at that time at.

BISAHA: But this year there are no parades. Instead there’s marches and protests.  Steve Cohen is a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

COHEN: There’s very little question that some of the advocates that were behind him are disenchanted in him. That’s almost inevitable if you’re a governing mayor.

BISAHA: With a re-election campaign on the not-too-distant horizon, keeping his winning coalition intact is certainly on De Blasio’s mind.  But Cohen says some of that opposition is inevitable.

COHEN: If you’re an activist group how do you get members and resources if you’re not opposing the established order.  To some degree the community groups business is to oppose whoever’s in power.

BISAHA: Back at Saint Paul’s, Faith in New York is preparing to march to City Hall. There, at the steps of the building, they’ll hold a prayer vigil. Onleilove Alston [Only-love All-ston] is the group’s executive director and part of the Mayor’s clergy advisory council. She insists that there isn’t any rift between Faith in New York and the Mayor and they still manage to work together on other issues.

ALSTON: If he’s doing well on immigration, then we’ll work together on that.  If he’s doing well on criminal justice, we’ll work together on that.  It’s not about a personal relationship.

BISAHA:  Meanwhile, the council is reviewing the Mayor’s plan.  And there may still be changes. But How those changes shift voters thinking for next year’s election remains to be seen.

((SOUND: Protest Singing))

Stephan Bisaha, Columbia Radio News.


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