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[Photos] Subsidize Billionaires’ Penthouses?

Yesterday hundreds of people braved NYC‘s cold winter temperatures and gathered at Columbus Circle to bring attention to the problem of 421a tax breaks that subsidize luxury developments such as One57 on Billionaire Row.

The New York Times has an interesting article on this very subject.

This event was organized by the Real Affordablity Coalition who also put together this petition. Tell Albany to end these subsidies for luxury development and to stop this assault on our communities!

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money in politics Sights

[Video] As Plutocrats Greedily Eye Public Spaces, NYC Demands Affordable Housing and Good Jobs

Moyers & Company recently aired a fantastic show titled “The Long, Dark Shadows of Plutocracy.” The show featured many clips from a rally and march I attended and photographed which drew hundreds of people to the streets of Harlem this past August.

Selected quotes

[A]mong our largest, richest 20 metro areas, less than 50 percent of the homes are affordable. Less than 50 percent. Bill Moyers

woman holding a sign that reads: we have rights, we are residents, we deserve equal respect as those who live elsewhere

The real estate industry here in New York City is like the oil industry in Texas. They outspend everybody. They often have a much better relationship with elected officials than everyday New Yorkers do. While there was affordable housing built in the last 12 years under Mayor Bloomberg, that affordable housing was not built for certain [regular working] people. Jaron Benjamin, Metropolitan Council on Housing

I think Central Park is the thing that Frederick Law Olmsted hoped it would be. It is a great democratic meeting place, where people from every walk of life are welcome, where they mingle together, where people relax, where people get exercise, where people play sports together, where people read books and paint and wander and think and unwind. Warren St. John, park user

The super-rich who buy those opulent apartments and live in New York City less than half the year will pay no city income tax at all. Which means the fabulously rich, high above the city, will be contributing no income taxes to support the public servants who make it work far below: transit workers and teachers, or the firemen and police who rushed to One57 when Hurricane Sandy tipped its construction crane and set it dangling dangerously over Midtown — shutting down one of the busiest streets in the city for a week.

The owners of One57’s apartments will not be paying their full share of property taxes, either — thanks to a dodgy deal slipped into a housing bill by State Senator Martin Golden and other legislators in Albany. Bill Moyers

[A] $90 million, 13,554 square foot penthouse and with 421a exemption allowed in this bill, their taxes per year would be $20,000. If they were not rolled into this legislation their taxes would be $230,000. New York State Senator Liz Krueger

Bill Moyers pointed out that this $210,000 tax break is per year and is four times NYC’s median income!

The internationalization of New York once meant something actually kind of exotic and exciting and enhanced our diversity. Today, internationalization at least on West 57th Street and East 57th Street, and all around Midtown Manhattan seems to symbolize not diversity but a kind of exclusivity.

And an end to the sense that we’re all in it together, which is the key urban idea. We all meet each other on the sidewalk, we all meet each other in public places, and the urban environment is the common ground that we all share. Paul Goldberger, architectural critic

I believe that the key urban idea raised by Mr. Goldberger is the same one that allows us to live in a functioning democracy and a decent society.

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[Photos] Marching for Higher Wages and Workplace Dignity

On Thurs the 16th, I joined hundreds of people filled with “low-wage rage” who marched in front of Alice Walton’s new $25 million Park Ave condo. Ms. Walton is one of the children and heirs to the Walmart founder’s fortune. Four of these heirs, including Alice Walton, occupy almost half of the slots in the Forbes list of the Richest 10 People in America.

Walmart, along with Alice Walton, has been the focus of many protests over the years. The reason is simple. Walmart, which is also the world’s largest retailer, has had its harmful labor practices adopted by retailers, fast-food chains, and other low-wage employers in NYC and around the world.

As workers around the country find themselves facing growing poverty and inequality, a lack of dependable hours, and few opportunities for career advancement, they have begun pushing back in ever-increasing numbers against the “Walmart economy.”