UPDATED: October 27, 2015, 3:40pm
The New York City Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) has announced the first public auction of “surplus” City real estate since 2013. We are working together with Picture the Homeless, the South Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation and Banana Kelly to stop the sale of key public assets.
The auction includes a former Health Department building in Queens that neighbors have started envisioning as an alternative health center and a residential building in the South Bronx (5,400 buildable square feet) that could be used to house some of the thousands of people in NYC’s shelters. It also includes a South Bronx building that was renovated by SoBRO in 1974 utilizing a grant from the US Economic Development Administration and has been a source of funding to support economic development in the South Bronx and a source of jobs ever since.
Selling these buildings to private developers will surely lead to them being turned into private spaces instead. This week, we brought the auction to the attention of the City Council Members and Community Boards representing the neighborhoods where the buildings are.
You can read the letters we sent to City Council Members and Community Boards here here and here. We also sent a summary of this urgent situation to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development. You can read that here.
Please join us tomorrow at the courthouse: Wednesday, October 28, 9:30am, Bronx County Courthouse at 851 Grand Concourse. Press release below.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 28, 2015
CONTACT: Ryan Hickey, 646-314-6423, firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Activists, Homeless People Protest “Sneaky” Auction of City-Owned Property
Demand an end to “stealth” auctions; decry $11M minimum asking price as incompatible with urgently-needed production of low-income housing
WHAT: Protest of DCAS Auction of City-Owned Property
WHEN: Wednesday, October 28th 2015, 9:30AM
WHERE: Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse
New York, NY – Community-based organizations and activists will rally at the Bronx County Courthouse to protest the auction of city-owned property to rich developers at a time when community-driven development and housing for homeless New Yorkers is more urgently needed than ever.
“Public property should be for the public good,” said Andres Perez of Picture the Homeless, “not sold the highest bidder. By setting an $11M minimum asking price for one of these properties, the city is signaling that they only want to deal with the kind of wealthy developers who have already proved they have no interest in building housing that benefits working-class and extremely-low-income New Yorkers.”
Activists also took issue with the “stealth” nature of the auction, with little public promotion of the event, and a lack of awareness about the sale among elected officials, city agency representatives, community residents, and non-profit organizations.
“The people of the Bronx need affordable housing, not conglomerates who are trying to capitalize on property that provides unaffordable housing in NYC,” said Janice Singleton, a Banana Kelly Resident Council Leader. “When is proper change going to take place for the residents of the Bronx?”
DCAS auction guidelines set no restrictions on what kinds of uses prospective purchasers can put these public assets to, and no restrictions on the types of purchasers able to participate in the auction; there is also no requirement that buyers put property to productive use or obtain a Certificate of Occupancy within any fixed timeline.
“The City is missing opportunities to stabilize neighborhoods by allowing space for the development of community assets on public land and through re-purposing public buildings.” says Paula Z. Segal, attorney and director of 596 Acres, New York City’s community land access advocacy organization. “In the property it owns, the City has both resources and leverage: City-owned vacant land and buildings can be turned into housing that is permanently affordable; community space or gardens; or affordable commercial, cultural, retail and manufacturing space that our neighborhoods badly need. Simply disposing of the property at auction takes this leverage away.”