2001-08-18 / Letters

Don’t Be A Fool

Don’t Be A Fool

Dear Editor;

Many of you around Beach 94th street are concerned about the building going up behind the library. You should be. It seems yet another low-income housing project is going up against the will of the people. I few look at the way these projects are being railroaded through, we might be in for the shock of our life. Look at the ones already finished, not at their physical look, but at the paper trails they leave behind. They’ll knock you off your feet.

Let’s start with a recent example. On Beach 24th street, a newly erected six-story, all brick building stands out as the ultimate insult to the community of Rockaway. Records obtained through the freedom of Information Act show that Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14, handed the builder the go-ahead on a silver platter. Jonathan took it upon himself to write a letter on February 19, 1997, to Commissioner Joseph Lynch, New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, who oversees all public funding for low-income housing in the state. In that letter, Jonathan stated that Community Board 14 and the community had approved the project at its February 11 meeting. However, the minutes of the February 11 meeting clearly show that the Beach 24th street project was not even discussed, never mind approved. I spoke to many members of Board 14 and none of them recall ever discussing the project. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer wrote letters of support for the project—even though it was not her district. That stinks.

Beach 94th Street is beginning to have the same smell. Residents around the area have their work cut out for them. They can start by contacting New York Housing Trust Fund Corporation and New York State Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. It all comes under Article 2-A of the Public Housing Law. I will help you find out all the details. Don’t expect Jonathan Gaska to help you. When I questioned him about the project on August 9, he didn’t know much about the rights of the residents around Beach 94th Street, but he knew a lot about the rights of the builder. That makes sense because Jonathan has been helping the builder to conform to community standards. Isn’t that nice? The builder wants to please the community and Jonathan wants to help him. How heart-warming.

If it sounds too good to be true, trust you instincts. When a builder seeks public funding for a low-income housing project, he must have the approval of the community. By working with District Manager Gaska, the builder is clearly paving the way, despite Gaska’s assurances that the rental units will go for between $1,000 and $1,300 per month. After all, those were the same figures Jonathan said would be charged for the Beach 24th Street project – the one he approved behind the community’s back. In reality, Beach 24th Street residents must earn no more than ten thousand dollars a year to qualify for an apartment. Do you still think we’re being overly cautious in thinking the Beach 94th Street building is destined to become low-income housing?

As the old saying goes, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." Don’t be a fool, act before it’s too late.

JOHN BAXTER

Independence Party Leader


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