By George Capsis

In the 1980’s one of the familiar New York news photos was of swaths of gutted tenements in the Bronx and Brooklyn abandoned by landlords who would not or could not pay for heat, maintenance and taxes that exceeded the income from rent controlled apartments—they just walked away. The city did something funny—over the bricked up windows they painted window shades, a flowerpot, and even a sitting cat to visually convey that there was still life in these very dead buildings.

OK—the problem was that the rent control laws meant to slow rent escalation for returning G. I.’s after the war got out of balance with the real cost of running these aging tenements and plots. The bureaucracy failed again.

Now, that same city bureaucracy has just passed new zoning laws that will let it build on the parking lots of public housing “taller and denser” apartment buildings for an additional 600,000 people adding to the 500,000 already in public housing to make it over a million.

Some of these apartments will be permanently affordable (sort of like rent control for the next century). Some will be for seniors, and some will be free for the mentally ill, handicapped or for those who simply cannot earn a living. Some will, at last, hopefully attract the current 60,000 homeless like the mentally tortured transgender person who lives in the black bag on the steps of the Charles Street Synagogue

But wait—on Easter Sunday the Times ran a great big photo of a newish looking 12-story public housing project in Chicago being demolished with an article about a study that randomly awarded vouchers to families in public housing so they could move out. The study compared the performance of the kids who stayed with those who escaped and found the escapees earned “substantially higher incomes—16% more or $45,000 in a lifetime”—oh wow!

This means De Blasio is condemning the hundreds of thousands of kids that will grow up in these taller and denser vertical slums to a lesser lifetime income—proving again that Bureaucracy is indeed a very blunt instrument for social change.

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