CHINATOWN ACTIVISTS RALLY FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING AND FOR LUXURY DEVELOPER TO PAY THEIR FAIR SHARE
March 4, 2014
On February 8, about 70 activists gathered at the Chinatown Gate to assert the right of Chinatown residents to remain, reclaim, and rebuild their community. “Chinatown has been here for 150 years and the residents helped build this into a vibrant neighborhood. Now residents are being pushed out, because they can no longer afford to live here,” said Kim Situ of the Chinese Progressive Association.
Tenants in ten buildings in Chinatown face eviction. Many of them are losing their homes, because landlords are evicting tenants to be able to renovate their buildings and rent them out at a higher cost. De Cheng Huang, a Chinatown tenant on Hudson Street, said “No more expensive housing. We need housing that regular residents can afford.”
From the Chinatown Gate, the group marched to Millennium Place, a 256-unit luxury residential tower completed this past year. “Millennium Partners has led the gentrification process of the area. First with the development of Ritz Carlton followed by Millennium Place, and now they are developing a luxury tower at the former site of Filene’s. While Millennium Place advertises a luxurious way to live, Chinatown residents just need a place to live,” said Lorrayne Shen, community organizer at the Chinese Progressive Association. The protest also highlighted special public discounts and subsidies Millennium Partners received, including a $5.9 million discount in affordable housing fees normally required for condominium projects of this size, and $26.8 million in tax breaks for its Millennium Towers project at the former Filene’s site. Signs at the protest read, “Public resources for public good,” and “Millennium Partners: Pay your $5.9 affordable housing fee!”
The protest ended at the 25 Harrison Avenue building where tenants were evacuated from during the middle of the night, because the building was found dangerous to live in. The event marked the two year anniversary of the building’s evacuation, and the structure sits unused today. “This and other abandoned buildings in the neighborhood could be used for permanent affordable housing and house the tenants who are being evicted from their homes,” says Lydia Lowe, Executive Director of the Chinese Progressive Association. “The $5.9 million that Millennium Partners needs to pay can be used to help purchase and fix up the building for low-income housing.” At 25 Harrison Avenue, activists hung signs on the building with stories of tenants facing eviction. One sign read, “We look for housing every day. We’ve applied to all the public housing in and around Chinatown but the wait seem endless. If we can’t live in Chinatown, I don’t how my mother will get to work or how my father will get to his doctor’s appointments.”
The event ended with a song adapted from a classic Chinese love song. The lyrics ask in Chinese:
You ask me how much do I love Chinatown?
I love it one hundred percent.
You think about it, go and take a look–
How long will Chinatown be like this?