Gentrification Post COVID 19 – Be Advised! by Lou Cespedes
I decided not to break my series on Gentrification, but rather use this space to issue a stark warning! As we consider our own health and the loss of life around us during this COVID-19 health emergency, what I do not see is our local officials managing the next crisis. The future planning and vision that is required at this time is not forthcoming from our federal, state, or municipal elected officials. Let me be blunt. Neither Congresswoman Yvette Clark, State Senator Kevin Parker, Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte, or Councilmember Farah Louis, has done anything other than parrot what Governor Cuomo tells us in his daily briefings. Today, there is no initiative that has been deployed to ascertain and mitigate the economic damage and certain calamity that will follow the COVID 19 virus in East Flatbush. Let’s break this down.
It is impossible not to see parallels to the 2008 Fiscal Crisis in our current dilemma. Already, we hear of mass lay-offs, restaurant and service sector businesses closed, nannies, homecare workers, day care and domestic service workers suddenly without income. The average income in our community hovers at around 58k/year. Our elderly population is extremely high. The younger population is either underemployed or working low paying jobs that are directly affected by the NYS PAUSE. There is a more than great likelihood that E. Flatbush will be decimated not only by the virus, but also by insolvency. Unemployment and infection will have a cascading effect on rent payments, property tax and on mortgages. Currently, there are mixed messages directed at the general public about their obligations. We hear from NYS about moratoriums on “foreclosures and evictions”. This has catastrophic effects! Mortgage Service Lenders ARE NOT providing homeowners moratoriums on mortgage payments. Tenants are not being given moratoriums on rent payments. There is NO guidance available from our local officials on how to manage the emerging threat that tenants will likely opt to skip rental payments. In many cases this will inevitably lead to FORECLOSURES on a massive scale in our community. Because of this lack of clarity and mixed messages, homeowners and tenants may be under the false impression that their payments will be forgiven during the PAUSE; they are not! Rather than provide you with guidance, national Mortgage Service Lenders are waiting to pounce on April 1st. Banks have learned from the 2008 mortgage default experience that foreclosures are a lucrative business. Renters will skip paying rent, homeowners that depend on that rent will be strapped to make mortgage payments, and coupled with job losses, mortgage defaults and tax liens will be eminent.
This is just the tip of the iceberg.
As we observe E. Flatbush’s already weak and struggling landscape of restaurants, shops, and local merchants, these closures all over the city are a devastating blow to small businesses. Particularly in E. Flatbush, many of these small businesses, already facing a barrage of challenges, will most likely never re-open. Commercial landlords, many of which bankroll and have direct access to our local elected leaders, have not announced any moratoriums or assistance to local merchants. If you are not an essential service transacting, you will be faced with crippling rent payments, possibly staff payments, and you will see how mass-unemployment directly affects our community and homes. The reason you do not hear from your elected local officials is because they are very aware of this threat on the horizon, and they prefer to allow this threat to escalate because it works to the advantage of their benefactors.
Landlords, knowing they have legal responsibilities to both residential and commercial lease holders, will now have the perfect excuse to claim defaults and commence evictions proceedings. The moratorium on evictions will eventually end, and when it does, you will literally see the results on our streets overnight – eviction notices, dumpsters, and closed storefront gates as far as the eye can see. This will be the preamble to the biggest Land Use Up-zoning initiative Brooklyn has ever seen along every major commercial avenue in our community. Our neighborhoods will be gutted to make way for richer, newer, and whiter residents by way of taller and bigger buildings, as well as a major transfer of homeownership in E. Flatbush. Within a few years, you will see entire blocks on commercial avenues being raised and our community will be radically transformed beyond recognition, as billions of dollars in tax abatements are made available to developers that will consolidate property. Perversely, they will justify their activity under the myth of providing “affordable housing”, as a new federal rescue bill provides billions of dollars to New York’s real estate elite.
That we are not hearing from any city-wide elected officials, including many prominent candidates for mayor, about the dilemma that small businesses and homeowners are facing, should be a clear sign that we are on our own. Leaders at the federal, state, and local level HAVE NOT coordinated a solution to this eminent disaster. As I complete this writing, Congress has just approved a 2 trillion-dollar rescue stimulus package. How that will trickle down to our community is an unknown and our elected officials are not telling us how to we can access this money to rescue our businesses, jobs, or homes.
In the meantime, homeowners like myself prepare in silence for the further debilitation of this community’s middle class, and the intentional bankrupting of our homeowner and business base.
Please be advised: This has everything to do with Gentrification! And if you don’t know, now you know.
Twitter:@loufor45 Instagram: Loucespedes