By George Capsis
Erik Bottcher, currently the chief of staff to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson (member for the 3rd district—which encompasses Greenwich Village and Soho), just announced that he is running to replace Corey, who will, hopefully, move on to become our next mayor. Wow.
I asked Erik, “Why announce so soon?” since the election is more than a year off, and he quickly explained that his opposition had announced months ago because the city gives you $8.00 for every election dollar you raise—wow, I forgot that. But hey, if you are in the city council you can pass any law that all the other members like; and certainly, they all liked the idea of $8.00 for every $1.00 your relatives or friends give you (hey, maybe we will get some political ads!).
But here we are, a small 15-year-old community newspaper still glowing with our victory of getting Northwell Hospital to build an emergency heart operating room that can save heart attack victims in minutes, with our always-smiling friend Erik standing a very good chance of being not only our local city councilman but providing if not an open door then at the least an open crack to the next mayor. Wow again.
Right now, Erik’s only announced opposition candidate is Marni Halsa, a strikingly healthy young woman who is very opposed to the demolition of two of the buildings at Fulton Houses (a public housing complex that starts at West 16th Street and 9th Avenue). The plan is that new buildings, when completed, will offer 70 percent of the nice new gleaming apartments to market rate tenants and 30 percent will be reserved for those who can only pay the much lower public housing NYCHA rates.
This 70-30 share is a proposal that was conceived by the Obama administration, but Marni Halsa believes that public housing should only be for people who cannot, and perhaps will never be able to, afford anything approaching market rate rents (we have come to know them as NYCHA tenants). She also believes that rich New Yorkers should be taxed to pay for public housing.
But wait, here we are, just about the last old fashioned for-real newspaper in Greenwich Village, and our always-smiling friend Erik Bottcher is running for city council; and when you run for office you have to say what kind of legislation you are going to campaign for, what problems you are going to correct, and how you are going to make this community better. (I forgot to ask him for his platform and after I hung up, still elated, I found myself writing one for him.)
Right here on Charles Street we have a row of once identical townhouses all built in 1866, where the real estate taxes vary from over $51,000 to $100,000—with the richest owner paying the lowest tax. Some years ago the city created a committee to look into this type of sprawling fiscal injustice but it evidently proved to be too complicated; I don’t know if the committee still meets. But—and here is the thing about having a friend who needs your help to get elected to the city council—I can ask Erik right now, “Would you please create a fair, equitable and transparent means of assessing and collecting real estate tax?”
OK, the big thing right now is housing—apartments are outrageously expensive. A friend, after three years of searching, was delighted to find and rent a two-room apartment in a well-kept and ideally located century-old tenement building for $1,925 a month with a brokerage fee of $3,495. But her private WC was on the first floor in a public hallway.
There was a time when you got out of school and went to the Village and found one or two roommates, rented an apartment and began your life. No more —even Brooklyn is too expensive.
Erik’s opposition, Marni Halsa, is for more and better maintained public housing, but I don’t know that if you just arrived in New York after graduating from a college in Kansas the City will rent you an apartment in public housing.
We have, perhaps, half a million or more elderly New Yorkers that are trapped in rent-stabilized apartments. Some can no longer make the stairs and need 24-hour care, but they are not getting it. Two years ago we proposed a new kind of apartment building—Senior Share—with apartments divided at the kitchen and bath, with one side for the senior and the other for the two kids just out of college who help the senior to the doctor visits, do the shopping, and make the morning coffee; and in return for these services they enjoy an affordable rent. Our architecture editor, Brian Pape, did a rendering of such an apartment on one of our front pages and within minutes we got our first call from a senior, “I’ll take one.”
OK Erik, build the first senior share apartment building in America.
So, readers of WestView: sit down and key what sort of legislation or action you want your new city councilman to perform and we will print the best in our next issue.
You know what you ought to do, Erik.