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Paterson Budget Proposes to Raid Funds from Battery Park City Meant for Affordable Housing to Balance State Budget

New York, NY – February 20, 2009 – (RealEstateRama) — A diverse array of housing advocates, affordable housing developers, community development corporations and low income tenants joined with New York City Comptroller William C. Thompson, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and members of the City Council today to protest a proposal by Governor David Paterson that would raid a fund dedicated to the construction of affordable housing in order to balance the state’s budget.

“Today, in a city that is home to some of the richest people in the world, it is becoming increasingly difficult for working families to afford to live here. Affordable housing has been and always will be essential to our city’s future growth and development,” Comptroller Thompson said. “Raiding a fund designed to provide our city with one of its greatest long-term needs while adding to our ballooning debt would be sacrificing the best interests of our future for the desperation of today.”

Governor Paterson’s executive budget for the upcoming fiscal year proposes raising $270 million from the Battery Park City Authority to help close the state’s budget deficit. Funding from the BPCA was the sole source of financing for the $130 million New York City Housing Trust Fund the Comptroller and Mayor Bloomberg announced in 2005 to create or preserve 4,300 units of affordable housing. Currently the City of New York was planning to use $400 million more from the BPCA to fund additional units of affordable housing.

“Now more than ever New York City needs affordable housing. There is nothing more shovelready than the thousands of units of affordable housing this money was meant to create in neighborhoods across this city. There couldn’t be a worse time to take money out of vital construction projects that would create jobs and provide more affordable housing for working families,” said Bertha Lewis, Chief Organizer/CEO of ACORN.

Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum said, “As the current economic crisis deepens, the need for affordable housing will be even greater than it has been in recent years. Governor Paterson should not tap this crucial resource in order to plug a budget deficit. It’s never a good time to raid funds for low and middle-income families, but right now especially, affordable housing must not be sacrificed.”

“Why is the history of the Battery Park City Authority littered with broken promises to New Yorkers for affordable housing? First, it was supposed to be a mixed-income community— onethird market, one-third middle-income, one-third low-income. When that promise was broken, it was agreed that the Authority would contribute $1 billion for affordable housing around the city,” explained Brad Lander, Director of the Pratt Center for Community Development. “But less than one-quarter of that was ever provided. Now, just as the City and State were set to honor the promise with a $400 million commitment, we hear that it may be broken again. The trail of broken promises must stop here and now.”

Frank Lang, Board Member of Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD), said: “In 2005 – after a decade of misuse – the City committed to using the Battery Park City surplus for affordable housing, as it was originally designed. In the past few years, those Battery Park City funds have proven effective at creating affordable housing, giving the City the flexibility it needs to move a housing development ahead when there is a funding gap. A lot of much-needed affordable housing would not have been created without the fund, and taking it away now would add insult to a historic injury. To keep these fund-shuffling games from being played again, Battery Park City funds must be permanently designated for affordable housing.”

Supportive members of the City Council at the rally included Bill de Blasio; Matthieu Eugene; Letitia James; John Liu; Melissa Mark-Viverito; Miguel Martinez; Annabel Palma; Diana Reyna; and David Yassky.

“As the City’s budget gap balloons and low and middle income earners face skyrocketing costs and rising unemployment, the Battery Park City Authority and the New York City Housing Trust Fund are more important than ever,” said Council Member David Yassky. “Housing projects like these are necessary to re-build neighborhoods, create jobs, and stimulate the City’s economy.”

“During tough economic times, cutting back on affordable housing will do far more harm than good. It is senseless and unfair to go back on our word and raid funds dedicated to affordable housing for working families. We cannot let New York City become a place where only the wealthy can afford to live,” added Councilmember Bill de Blasio.