Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Home In New York City

Today's New York Times has a great article on the rarity that is affordable housing in New York City. I am lucky in that I live in one of these "one in a million" apartments.

In the heart of New York City is a bastion of "middle class" housing, the Penn South Co-ops. Just south and west of Midtown. Barely North of the West Village and walking distance to oh so much of this wonderful city.

I am not paying through the nose for this privilege, I just got lucky.

Back when my mother-in-law taught at Humanities High School, she heard about "the list." "The List" was the waiting list at our complex. Our community was built with the backing of what is now the ILGWU. Apartments were priced so that a teacher, a firefighter, a garment worker, could afford to live near their jobs in comfort and dignity. Not only were they priced that way, a covenant was entered into with the state so that you could only get into the complex if your income fell within a certain range. When you left the complex, you sold your apartment back at the same price that you paid. Yup, no profit. As a matter of fact, we took a small loss when we moved from a 2 bedroom apartment to a 3 bedroom. (They called it a "restoration" fee.)

A fly over of our complex shows enough green space to give a modern real estate developer heart palpitations. (Just think of how many more apartments you could squeeze in here!)

Many of the tenants, yours truly included, still adhere to the beliefs that founded our complex -- that there should be affordable housing for the masses. When our current deal with the state runs out in a few years, our family will vote (if given the option) to not go market rate. I want to keep Penn South for the masses. For the people who do the day to day work in this city, keeping it running. My neighbors include firefighters, nurses, teachers, maintenance workers and subway motormen.

On Monday, I will share the Times article with my younger staff members. The ones who have not already moved out to New Jersey in order to find affordable homes. The lists still exist and people still get lucky. I just want to share the "wealth."


Anonymous said...

Your complex website makes it look like a very nice place to live. I love the children's playground.

Affordable housing is becoming harder and harder to find here in Orlando. We were lucky to move here when housing was cheap and move our way up.

The funny thing is we are now almost ready to "downsize" and we can't find anything smaller that is affordable! LOL

Paul said...

Great website! You must feel very fortunate to be where you are.

My Mom worked in a dress factory, and was a member of the ILGWU. In the '70's, there was a commercial that used their song, and about 5 years ago, my high school produced the musical "Working", and the very opening of the show is a recording of the ILGWU song. My Mom was very proud.

Holly of HollYarns said...

OMG, affordable housing in the city! I would of never imagined such a thing existed. Okay, so we live in different cities (mine--San Francisco), but I am so envious of the principle behind your housing complex. Beautiful!