Sanders Sees More 'Affordable Housing' In Our Future
If City Councilman James Sanders, Jr. has his way, 20 percent of the new homes built in Rockaway will be "affordable" for people on limited incomes and those "working poor" who want to move out of the city housing projects.
"That's about the right number," Sanders said in a recent visit to The Wave. "Twenty percent and they have to be condos, not rental units because people take better care of their homes if there is a sense of ownership."
In addition, Sanders said that he is fighting for a change in the formula that decides the definition of "affordable" in New York City.
"How much do you have to earn to live in affordable housing is the question that needs to be answered," Sanders said with a shrug. "Government uses the Area Median Income," as a guide and our AMI area includes some of upstate, Nassau and Suffolk counties. That is not fair to New York City residents, he argues.
"You can make $80 thousand a year and still qualify for affordable housing under their method," Sanders said. "The average salary in Rockaway is about $33,000. We should be looking at that figure as the requirement for affordable housing, not $80, 000."
He added, "We have to protect our shrinking middle class, those earning between $35 and $70 thousand - our working poor. We have to focus on getting them condos because they should have the opportunity to own where they live."
In addition to housing, Sanders and Wave editors discussed a wide range of issues facing Rockaway and the Councilman's future plans.
He said that he is working with other city officials to draw a "Plan B" for the emergency evacuation of the peninsula in case of a massive hurricane.
"The city's Plan A is not going to work and we all know that," he said. "We have to look to use high buildings in Rockaway such as PS 42 in Arverne to put people who can't get out in time."
He added that it is most important to get seniors and nursing home patients out long in advance. He hopes that the MTA bus depot in Rockaway can be useful in that phase of the evacuation.
In addition, Sanders said that he is working on a new vocational school for the peninsula, one that would be in Arverne and would run programs in the construction trades and in, perhaps, health care professions.
What does Sanders want to do with his life when his term as City Councilman is over?
"I still like 12 years as a term limit rather than eight," he said with a laugh. "But, I would like to teach government in college. Politics is a good place to learn about life, but not a good place to be for all your life."