A community forum and strategy session with Raquel Rolnik, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing one year of her historic UN mission.

An opportunity to share the strength of our movement and collaboration.

October 25, 2010

Doors open at 6 PM/Event at 6:30 PM
James Chapel at Union Theological Seminary
121st Street 7 Broadway

Saturday, October 24, 2010

Hello everybody,

A number of folks called asking if we knew of a
Harlem meeting today with the United Nations’ Rapporteur on Adequate Housing. We checked with at least two dozen Harlem housing folks and organizations, nobody had heard of anything. Kinda of strange, right? So we began to dig deeper on the internet. We found the link below ( See the attached link below for October 25th flyer.

Clearly, there are folks who don't want the greater community of
Harlem to know about this event, which is why they didn't publicize it! Which leads to the question, why? Why would any group, local or national take it upon themselves to exclude large segments of the Harlem community from such a public event that is meant to provide under the auspices of the United Nations, "An opportunity to share the strength of our movement and collaboration" and to "Build the Human Rights to Housing Movement".

We faced the same obstacles this year as we did in October of 2009 when Rapporteur Rolnik visited Harlem to solicit testimony on the inadequateness of housing from members of the public. Many of us in Harlem learned about the 2009 meeting after the fact. A group of Harlem activists, tenants and heads of not for profits agreed we should ask for an audience with Rapporteur Rolnik. The Host Committee headed by Rob Robinson for Picture the Homeless denied our request to meet with Mr. Rolnik. I hand delivered a letter protesting the exclusion but Ms. Rolnik never replied. I guess THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE! We heard similar stories from some of our housing partners in New Orleans.

Yet this is the same Rapporteur Rolnik who met with the anti-displacement task force of City Councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito who voted for the expansion of Columbia University's 18 acre expansion in West Harlem that will displace (according to Columbia University) 5,000 low income Latino and African American families. (We believe the figure is much higher over a 30 year construction period).

The same Viverito who voted in favor of the 125th Street rezoning plan despite fierce community resistance from across Harlem. According to the New York Times (2/21/08) "City's Sweeping Rezoning for 125th Street Has Many in Harlem Concern", the rezoning calls for the "thoroughfare to be transformed from a low-rise boulevard lined with businesses like hair salons and buffet-style soul food restaurants into a regional business hub with office towers as high as 29 stories and more than 2,000 new market-rate condominium apartments, as well as hotels, bookstores, art galleries and nightclubs." In addition, the rezoning will displace 70 most African American small businesses and their 975 workers. The New York Times also said, "Although the city has said it will not require any residents to move out, the proposal has caused widespread fear that thousands of longtime African-American residents will eventually have to move as the area becomes more expensive. Even now, some apartments in Harlem sell for $2 million or more."

The same Viverito who voted for billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s much touted $700 million East Harlem 125
th Street Development Project, a public/private mixed used complex consisting of a Media, Entertainment and Cultural Center, more than 600 affordable housing units, a public plaza, office/retail space, and a hotel. According to the Mayor’s press release “Affordable housing will be available to families at varying income ranges; with a maximum income level of 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) or what is equal to an annual household income of $46,100 for a family of four.” Here the problem: the median household income in East Harlem is $16,234. This is the same Viverito who will not support East Harlem local small businesses whose properties the city with confiscate under New York State’s abusive eminent domain law: seizing private property for rich private corporations.

This is the same Viverito who funds Picture the Homeless. Which is why some forces in the housing movement don’t want us at the table, so there will be no discussion of the gentrification driven displacement carried out by Columbia University, rich private developers and Harlem politicians whose campaign coffers are filled by New York’s powerful real estate industry. The capture of Harlem’s 125th corridor has been completed: Columbia University in the western corridor (the Hudson River); and the sweeping commercial and residential developments from central Harlem to the East River represents the final push out of Harlem’s working Black community. We demand a meeting with Rapporteur Rolnik. For those interested in pursuing the meeting with Rolnik please email me with your contact information.

Nellie Bailey

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