6 NOVEMBER 3, 2016 RIDGEWOOD TIMES WWW.QNS.COM MASPETH SHELTER WAR Stringer says locals must be involved in shelter planning BY ANTHONY GIUDICE AGIUDICE@RIDGEWOODTIMES.COM @A_GIUDICEREPORT With local residents feeling ignored and disrespected by Mayor Bill de Blasio, his administration, and the local elected offi cials regarding a proposed homeless shelter in Maspeth, City Comptroller Scott Stringer visited the Juniper Park Civic Association in Middle Village on Thursday night to address their concerns about the plan. Stringer, one of many speculated challengers to de Blasio in next year’s mayoral election, sought to answer the questions of community members in order to open a dialogue with them and talk about long-term and lasting solutions to the city’s historic homelessness crisis, rather than just continue to put the homeless in hotel rooms. “I wanted to come here so you could see the face, the hands, the eyes, to speak to you, to talk to you and think about the issues that we face,” Stringer told the crowd. “Look, I will tell you this, I know homelessness is on everyone’s mind, this is a crisis. Sixty thousand people are now in shelter systems, it could go as high as 70 thousand.” Because the number of homeless people across the city is so high, and could climb even higher, shelters are going to be needed, Stringer admitted. But he believes the community needs to be involved in the decision. “Remember when there was something called community-based planning? We actually worked with the community. We thought about the plans together,” Stringer said. “We didn’t always see eye to eye — the government and the civic — but we worked it out … we can’t deal with the homeless crisis top down telling you what to do. We have got to create a conversation that respects your opinions, your views and your concerns.” Some of the community’s concerns included knowing that their tax dollars are being spent properly when it comes to homeless shelter; the cost of keeping the homeless in hotels; and if the mayor is abusing the emergency declaration to quickly move homeless people into hotels without community approval. As comptroller, Stringer is the city’s chief fiscal officer, so his office recently audited the shelter system and remediated many of the problems that were found, making sure that the taxpayer’s money is being used in the right way. When it comes to the cost of sheltering homeless people in hotel rooms — which can cost up to $5,000 dollars per month, which goes to the owner of the hotel — Stringer does not believe the city should be spending thousands of Photos by Anthony Giudice/QNS City Comptroller Scott Stringer answered community questions at Thursday’s Juniper Park Civic Association meeting. taxpayer dollars to house homeless people in what are oft en “roach motels” or cluster sites. Instead, he says that truly permanent aff ordable should be built to keep people in homes. Stringer explained that the emergency declaration was put in place to quickly move people off the streets if there was a crisis, much like the city is currently facing. “If we only use the emergency declaration as an excuse to not be transparent to the community, well that is wrong,” Stringer said. “And that is why we need to invite and listen to the community.” According to Stringer, one way to decrease the skyrocketing number of people in the city’s shelter system would be to create affordable housing to move people from shelters and into permanent housing, including using the vacant homes in the New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) control. “We have to have a plan to reduce the shelter population, which would reduce shelters, and come up with an affordable housing plan,” Stringer added. You may not know your apartment is rent-stabilized BY ANTHONY GIUDICE AGIUDICE@RIDGEWOODTIMES.COM @A_GIUDICEREPORT Are Ridgewood-area landlords raking in tax breaks, while not listing their apartments as rent stabilized? A new analysis published by Pro- Publica shows that nearly two-thirds of over 6,000 rental properties across New York City are receiving tax benefi ts from the city’s 421-a program do not have approved applications on fi le, and most haven’t even registered the apartments for rent stabilization, as required by law. By not registering for rent stabilization, the owners can hike up rents as high as they like which leads to the gentrification of low-income neighborhoods, which has become a major problem in places like Ridgewood and the surrounding areas. The 421-a program was created to spur developers of new apartment buildings to build low-income housing by off ering property tax breaks for registering and listing their rental units as rent stabilized, which limits rent increases by small amounts established by New York City. In order to take part in the 421-a program, developers must fi ll out an application where they agree to register their apartments for rent stabilization. Aft er the new rental units are built, city offi cials verify that they’ve registered for the program and issue a certifi cate of approval. Once they receive the certifi cate, it must be fi led with the city’s Finance Department so the owner can begin getting the tax break. The ProPublica analysis shows that these procedures are not being followed. ProPublica estimates that together, these landlords have saved close to $300 million a year in property taxes without having to show that they’ve qualifi ed for the 421-a tax break, or providing rent-stabilized units. According to ProPublica’s database*, in the greater Ridgewood area, Maspeth has the lowest number of rent-stabilized buildings with 35 (14 without 421-a approval on fi le, while 21 were on fi le); Ridgewood has 46 rent-stabilized buildings (17 not on fi le, 29 on fi le); Middle Village has 61 rent-stabilized buildings (39 not on fi le, 22 on fi le); and Glendale has the most with 66 rent-stabilized buildings (42 not fi led, 24 fi led). Users can search the database for their specifi c address to see if the landlord has been approved for the 421-a program and registered the building for rent stabilization. If not, the tenant may be paying much more than they are supposed to. One way to make these landlords register their buildings, if eligible, is through enforcement. The Department of Housing, Preservation and Development and the Department of Finance have identifi ed the owners who do not adhere to the law and plan to notify them that they must comply or lose their benefi ts, ProPublica stated. According to ProPublica, Mayor Bill de Blasio has also proposed reforms that would require owners to meet all 421-a criteria before the tax benefi ts are handed out. *Approval data indicate whether the landlord has obtained an OK from the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development to receive a post-construction 421-a tax break and provided that approval to the city’s Finance Department to obtain it. In some cases, the housing agency may give its approval but the paperwork may be missing from Finance’s books. Status may change as lagging approvals get fi led; the data shown here is current as of March 2016. To show landlords are abiding by the 421-a program’s rent stabilization requirement, they must register their buildings and apartments for rent stabilization with the state’s Division of Housing and Community Renewal. Buildings that began receiving benefi ts aft er 2014, the latest registration data available, would not have an obligation to register as of that year, while those that received benefi ts prior to 2014 would. Photo by Anthony Giudice/QNS Many owners have not registered their buildings in the 421-a program, but are reaping the tax benefi ts.
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