Keep public housing public!

SLL photo: Stephen Millies

New York, Nov. 6 — Housing activists gathered on the steps of City Hall today and said no to the privatization of the largest public housing system in the U.S. Developers want to kick out working-class families in order to build more luxury housing.

Five hundred thousand people live in New York City’s public housing. They’re fed up with mold and roaches in their apartments. 

Elevators are often broken, a nightmare for disabled and elderly residents.  Many tenants at the Queensbridge Houses didn’t have heat last winter.

Saundrea Coleman, co-founder of the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition, chaired the conference. La Keesha Taylor, also from the coalition, demanded action, as did Jose Guevara, who’s also from the Holmes-Isaacs Coalition. Chants of “Fight! Fight! Fight!” filled the front of City Hall.

The capitalist government has let public housing rot for years. Just to repair the Fulton Houses will cost $168 million.

Around $32 billion is needed to fix the backlog of repairs in the entire system. That’s about what the so-called U.S. Department of Energy spends every year to develop new nuclear weapons.

Louis Flores from Fight for NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority) demanded that elected officials get public housing fixed, or they will be voted out. Kei Pritsker from the Justice Center en El Barrio denounced the vertical patrols conducted by New York police in housing projects.

Pritsker pointed out that the unarmed Akai Gurley was killed in Brooklyn’s Pink Houses by a cop who discharged his weapon down a dark stairwell. If the elevators had not broken down and the stairway had been lighted, Akai Gurley might be alive today.

Kei Pritsker also told listeners that there are no homeless people in socialist Cuba and that Venezuela has built 2.8 million homes for poor people. What a contrast to the capital of capitalism—New York City—where 100,000 students will be homeless for at least part of the year.

Dannelly Rodriguez spoke from Justice for All, a dynamic grassroots group from the Astoria, Woodside and Sunnyside communities in western Queens. He denounced plans to build luxury housing over the Sunnyside railroad yards.

Rodriguez asked that if Mayor Bill de Blasio can find $11 billion to build new jails, why can’t they find the money to fix public housing?

People will have to fight to get it.