Residents fall short in push to privatize building
by Patrick Kearns
Feb 28, 2017 | 2355 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Residents of a Clinton Hill housing complex voted not to proceed with exploring privatization last week.

The 24-story, 362-unit building at 21 St. James Place was originally built through the Mitchell-Lama program, which offers low and middle-income residents a chance at homeownership.

Written into the program is a 20-year out period once the mortgage is paid off, after which the apartments can be turned into market-rate co-ops or condos by a two-thirds vote of shareholders.

According to ten-year resident Courtney Shapiro, Thursday's vote was to authorize the hiring of a lawyer and accountant to create an offering plan. She is in favor of exploring options with regards the development of an offering plan. She felt the development is being unfairly targeted.

“I feel like we're being used as the poster child for affordable housing,” she said.

Of the 326 eligible shareholders, 261 cast a vote with 132 in favor of the resolution and 129 against. However, supporters of privatization fell short of the 218 votes necessary to constitute the required two-thirds majority.

Lawrence Whiteside moved into the development the year it opened, and recalled when Clinton Hill wasn't a desirable neighborhood. Now, he believes he and the others should reap some benefit.

“We had to hire security guards,” he said “We had to close off the entrance on St. James Place because of almost daily muggings. We didn't move into this great lovely place.”

Joyce Stickney has been a resident of the building for five years, and believes it would be a mistake to go private. She previously lived in a rent-stabilized apartment that became too expensive before buying at 21 St. James Place.

“Affordable housing is a big issue in New York City,” she said. “I'd rather be part of the solution than the problem.”

Marlene Steele's 99-year-old mother lives in the building and is nervous about the move to privatization.

“Why do we not want to leave the same opportunity that was available for us to someone else?” Steele asked.

Steele's sentiments are backed by elected officials urging for the preservation of the affordable housing.

“What about other hardworking people who want a chance to live here?” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “And what about the teachers and police officers who, if you go private, will not be in a position to afford to live here? Should living in Clinton Hill only be an option for the rich?”

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo warned there will be casualties if the residents vote for privatization.

“It's not disputable that the taxes will go up,” she said. “It's indisputable that the maintenance will go up, those are facts.”
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