Tenants Call Out Working Group as Anti-Democratic

NYCHA Champions the Chelsea Working Group as a success story of robust collaboration between policy makers, elected officials, and public housing residents, but was it?

“At the end of February, the final report outlining the Chelsea NYCHA Working Group’s recommendations for Fulton and Elliot-Chelsea Houses was released. While the report looks nice, the glossy presentation is really a distraction intended to cover up an undemocratic, coercive process that is attempting to lock us residents out of decisions about the future of our homes. We know this because we participated in the working group, and have been fighting for our homes and our futures since 2018 when plans for Fulton and Elliot-Chelsea Houses were first announced.”

To paraphrase, we have been silenced by our elected officials and our TA President – those elected to represent us.

Here are some of their key takeaways:

  • …while nearly 5,000 residents stand to be effected by these plans, the working group plan lists 22 residents in total. That means, at best, only 0.4% of residents were involved in regularly discussing and devising this plan for our homes and our futures… And really, this number is even lower…Only 2 residents from Chelsea and 7 from Fulton attended any virtual meetings.
  • …the report overstates the group’s engagement with residents more broadly, while glossing over dissent and alternatives. For example, there were supposed to be three in-person resident meetings at Fulton Houses, but there was only one, [and during that meeting] residents at every table stood up and said, “No RAD, No Demolition” and demanded 30% rent calculations.
  • We also know, through talking with our neighbors, that holding meetings via Zoom presents real barriers for many of our neighbors. Many don’t have access to the necessary hardware, don’t have a stable Internet connection, or aren’t comfortable with digital technology, and this prevented many from participating in these meetings.
  • We also presented alternative plans to the Working Group with civil rights attorney Norman Siegel… a plan for resident management…the Working Group dismissed it immediately, and heckled him. When we and other tenants said that we wanted to discuss this plan in more detail, the group told us they would hold another meeting, but no meeting was ever scheduled and the plan was never seriously discussed.

In a powerful conclusion, the authors state:

the active silencing by the working group should be enough to stop any forward motion on their plans. This was not a legitimate or inclusive process and should not be how the future of our homes or the homes of any NYCHA tenants is decided.

We are calling on elected officials from across the city, and especially those on the Public Housing Committee, to denounce this undemocratic process and join us in demanding this plan be thrown out.

Moreover, we are calling for a complete halt to RAD across the city. We are hearing from tenants around the city, in converted buildings and buildings where conversions are expected, that tenants’ rights are being trampled. We stand in solidarity with these tenants and demand that our homes remain Section 9, that public funding at all levels of government immediately be allocated, and that pathways towards resident management be pursued.