Starrett City Press Conference

Prepared Remarks for Alphonso Jackson

Friday, March 2, 2007

Thank you. I welcome each of you to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

And I welcome my colleagues, Senator (Chuck) Schumer, Attorney General (Andrew) Cuomo, and Representative (Ed) Towns.

For weeks, my colleagues and I have been troubled by the prospective sale of Starrett City. Today, I am announcing that I will deny HUD approval of the sale of Starrett City.

I have sent a letter to that effect to the legal representatives of the buyers.

Presently, Starrett City is the largest federally-subsidized housing development complex in the United States, providing affordable housing for over five thousand families. If Starrett City is lost as affordable housing, there are no alternatives for most of the families but to move far away.

As with any low- and moderate-income housing development, the Department is charged with the responsibility to ensure that Starrett City's owners have the sufficient financial and managerial capacity. We must know that they have the capability to ensure the project is maintained in good physical condition and remains affordable.

At present, the Department lacks sufficient information concerning the proposed buyers' financial and managerial plans to conclude that they can maintain Starrett City as affordable housing.

We are concerned about the buyers' financing. The buyers have said that they may need additional investors to close the sale. This raises the concern that the buyers lack the financial resources to provide for the long-term needs of the development.

We are concerned that the conditions of the sale will lead to the loss of affordable housing in New York City. Starrett City's current rent levels likely cannot be maintained, given the purchase price. The economics of the situation cannot be ignored.

We are concerned about the buyers' management capacity. The buyers have not demonstrated any affordable housing management experience, let alone experience with affordable housing of Starrett City's size. The buyers' representation that they "do not contemplate a present change" in the property management agent does not adequately address this concern.

We are concerned about the buyers' ability to comply with the law. Attorney General Cuomo's office has obtained an injunction preventing one of the principal buyers from participating in cooperative ventures due to numerous housing code violations. Any such information is troubling.

We are concerned that the sale will rapidly change the Starrett City community. Despite assurances and promises, we fear that Starrett City will be dug open, paved, plastered, and forever changed as additional buildings are added to generate the funds necessary to pay for a $1.3 billion sale.

This is one of the model public housing programs in the country. We cannot stand by and allow the stores to disappear, and the churches and synagogues to be razed, replaced by new high rises. We cannot stand witness to the loss of open space and parks where tenants walk and their children play.

Above all, we are concerned for the residents of Starrett City. We must act out of simple decency and compassion. We must remember what it means to lose affordable housing, especially in a wonderful community like Starrett City. The loss of a community is the loss of a way of life, as good friends move away, surroundings are altered, places of worship change, children's lives are disrupted, and homes taken away.

We must remember the purpose of affordable public housing. It is where people live together, grow up together, and grow old together. Starrett City is a community of people...a way of life...a good life that has been the product of thousands of people working and living together in harmony every single day.

The tenants don't want this transaction. It would be the worst kind of theft to steal all of this from them. This department will not stand idly by while a community and its people are unnecessarily placed at risk - at risk of losing their homes and their way of life.

By exercising my authority, I act to protect the people served by this department.


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