Mayor Bill de Blasio was in Bed-Stuy on Saturday visiting local small business, in an effort to rally resident support around two bills--Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability-- addressing major changes to the City's zoning and subsequent affordable housing stock.
Joining him was City Councilmember Robert Cornegy, Jr., whose residents in the 36th Council District representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and parts of Crown Heights have been largely affected by rising rents and where many of its longtime residents are now being forced out.
Bed-Stuy native Sherice Coleman, 35, was at PJ's Hair Perfection, located at 1455 Fulton Street, waiting for a hair appointment. She said she was in the process of trying to move out of her current residence, but was finding the affordable housing options out of her range. "When you have 'affordable rents' going for $3,000, $4,000 that's not affordable for me," said Coleman. Besides, she added, she had applied for more than 200 lotteries for affordable housing and had never been called.
"Every day in my office, what I hear about is people being priced out; people being forced out, and not much in the past has been done about it," Cornegy said at brief press conference he held with Mayor de Blasio on the corner of Fulton St. and Tompkins Ave. "But now we have opportunity to vote on something that will put is in a position to stay in Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights."
Both bills come out of the mayor's office and have sparked a lot of controversy amongst local community boards and the city council who say the bills do not go far enough in their measures of "affordability."
Two public hearings were held on the proposals February 9 and 10 of this year; amendments to the bills were presented by a few local governing bodies, including the comptroller's office, the office of the public advocate and the office of the Brooklyn Borough President. But so far, none of the amendments have been adopted, and the city council will have to calendar and vote on them both soon.
So in the meantime, the mayor is taking to the streets to meet local business owners at places such as hair salons and barber shops-- places where the community often meets and talks casually-- to spread the word and garner support for his two bills, including new services the city has put in place to protect tenants from landlord harassment.
"If you know of anyone, at work, where you live, a neighbor, family member, friend anyone who says, I'm being forced out of my apartment or my landlord is harassing me, they won't make repairs tell them please call 311 and get the help they deserve," said de Blasio to a captive audience of workers and patrons at Cherry's Unisex Hair Salon, located at 1449 Fulton Street.
"We have a tool now to protect people against illegal harassment and illegal eviction. Let them know they can get a free lawyers. We want to keep people in their homes and to avoid evictions. We have free legal services for people in need."
Gushing and excited about the mayor's visit, store managers seemed receptive:
"We will be effective in spreading the word," said Cerrita Turner, 39, who has worked at Cherry's as a stylist for three years. "We've been open for 25 years; we have generations and generations of customers. We've always been the go-to place for what's going on in the street. So if there's anyone who can spread the word, we can."
"We need to create a lot more affordable housing quickly," de Blasio said. "I'm asking everyone to be my deputy on this and spread the word. I'm deputizing you."