By George Capsis
The scene of groups of Germans smilingly greeting Syrians with food and blankets needs to be considered against the gleeful applause Donald Trump gets when he suggests walling off Mexico.
Perhaps this is in part because the new generation of Germans may still feel guilt for the death of 6 million Jews, but there is a general consensus in the civilized world that we should help people out when they are homeless, and in New York the homeless population has recently peaked at 60,000.
The Times did an editorial on the subject and discussed the prevalence in the homeless population of “people with disabilities, mental illnesses and other conditions that make them vulnerable.” They supported the demand of the advocates for the homeless that we should build “30,000 units of permanent supportive housing” (“supportive” is a liberal code word for free) and get them out of the vermin infested shelters.
OK, that makes sense, I mean half of the 60,000 homeless are children and before another winter like the last one, we want to get kids into real permanent apartments so they can start the de Blasio new pre-schools.
But wait—building 30,000 apartments in New York City to permanently house 15,000 adults and 15,000 children (with the mentally ill and disabled adults never really able to pay rent or even buy food) can be, given the explosion in land and constructions costs, very expensive. According to The Real Deal, Manhattan land prices have leapt 29 percent to $1,851 per square foot and even Brooklyn has gone to $836.
OK, we all agree that we will always have a population of mentally ill, drug addicts, elderly or socially disabled people that some part of our tax dollar must pay for to house and feed—the question is how and where
If it is felt that we want to keep these people within the borders of New York City, then we should build a housing complex in Staten Island where the land costs are only $37.62 per square foot.
I got into a lot of trouble suggesting that we should build retirement communities in Florida for seniors living in rent stabilized apartments so their NYC apartments which still have affordable rents can be given to incoming young people.
According to the Coalition for the homeless we have the highest number of homeless since the Great Depression. In July it hit 58,270, which included 13,985 families with 23,490 children (homelessness is up 78% in the last ten years).
When the Coalition asked “why are you homeless” the primary response was “the lack of affordable housing”
The trigger – the incident that made them homeless starts with eviction, we presume for the failure to pay rent followed by being ousted from a doubled up or crowed arrangement with a relative or friends followed by job loss.
Single homeless have high rates of mental illness, addition and severe health problems (these tend to sleep in the subways and streets and 60% of the homeless prefer midtown Manhattan.
And finally the Coalition offers that 57% of the shelter homeless are African- American, 31 percent Latino, 8 percent are white, 1 percent Asian American.
OK, rents are exploding along with the cost of building public housing but I believe di Blasio is committed to building 80,000 units of “affordable” house over the next ten years but will it be enough if homelessness keeps accelerating?
The 80-year-old rent control law has frozen the occupants of more than a million apartments well into the foreseeable future and the Rudin’s are building for the 1 percenters, which means young college grads will be moving into Brooklyn and beyond for many decades to come and this will change the character of the inner city and certainly the West Village.
My last bachelor apartment on 9th Avenue and 29th Street was $15, which I shared with a painter from Atlantic City and a sculptor from Boulder, Colorado—our rent was $5 a month each
The Coalitions alert that more and more people are not able to pay the rent in New York will only get worse and Manhattan and certainly the West Village will not welcome the next generation of young Villagers let alone Syrians.
It makes no sense to resent that we have a permanent underclass that will never participate in the economy, such as in-and-out drug addicts. And now as the income gap continues to widen, we have more and more people who will never be able to afford an apartment in New York—so we must build for this ever growing group—these are our Syrians.