Op-Ed: Rally For Our Neighborhoods Draws Over 300 To City Hall

Rally for Our Neighboorhoods, Winning signs

By Kirsten Theodos

Human-scale NYC and 68 organizations from across the city came out to the steps of city hall this past Saturday to protest over-development and the real estate lobby’s control over New York City.

Dubbed “Rally for Our Neighborhoods,” over 300 New Yorkers attended the event.

“It is time for a real affordable housing policy and to protect local residents, libraries, gardens, NYCHA, historic buildings, and playgrounds from the real estate machine,” declared Human-Scale NYC in a release that also called for its “gentle” affordable housing platform.

Brooklyn organizations who sponsored the event included Brooklyn Bridge Park Defense Fund, Concerned Citizens for Community-Based Planning, Dumbo Neighborhood Alliance, Fort Greene Association, Movement to Protect the People (MTTOP), Respect Brooklyn, Preserve our Brooklyn Neighborhoods, Save the View Now, Society for Clinton Hill, and Stop 80 Flatbush.

LaShaun Ellis from Flower Lovers Against Corruption (FLAC) spoke about fighting to protect public assets from being destroyed or compromised by over-development and high rise development, in particular the area around Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Queens organizations who sponsored the event included Hunters Point Civic Association, the LIC Coalition, the Court Square Civic Association and Justice for All (JFA).  Yvette Darcel co-Chairperson of JFA, which represents three NYCHA houses in Astoria / Long Island City denounced “unaffordability, overcrowding, lack of sustainable jobs, decent wages and homelessness.”

Sheila Lewandowski of The Long Island City Coalition called out irresponsible luxury development that has taken over LIC.–  “Our raw sewage is dumped in the East River which our city pays the EPA in fines for every day… we need planning that includes our input,” she said.

Speakers included Jeremiah Moss, author of Vanishing New York, Kevin Baker, author of the cover story “The Death of a Once Great City” in Harper’s, and Michael Hiller, land use attorney who has taken on big real estate in several high profile cases.

The city-wide message was clear: New Yorkers from a diverse range of neighborhoods are tired of seeing the displacement of long-time residents and small businesses from aggressive luxury development enabled by Mayor de Blasio’s administration and local elected officials who are beholden to the powerful Real Estate Board of NY (REBNY).

Numerous leaders of neighborhood and civic organizations all spoke to this issue at the rally.  People chanted “No Displacement” and “De Blasio is a Fraud!” and “Save our Libraries!” , “Save Inwood” and “Save Harlem Now!”

All of these issues are connected because they are all product of the way Big Real Estate, via it’s lobbying arm, the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) had  controlled the media narrative, the campaign finance system, and, appointments to agencies that deal with land use, and the policy attention of our politicians.

The rally ended on a high note when the sun came out and co-founder of Human-scale NYC Lynn Ellsworth called attention to the handouts that included the  36 Council Members who will be termed out in 2021.

“This is a great opportunity, let’s find candidates who pledge not to take a penny from real estate.!”  Also included in the handout was a list of possible reforms that will “change the rules of the game” that now favor real estate interests over those of ordinary citizens.