Monday, June 23, 2008

Coming Soon: NYC = Dubai

I've been telling anyone that'll listen that our native New York City is perilously inching towards becoming Dubai: one of those places where poor people can't afford to live, just come into work and then head on back out to the hinterlands at the end of the day. (And it's not just Manhattan; I doubt the outer boroughs are going to be much relief. Well, maybe Staten Island, know.) And forget about them opening their own little businesses: As I understand it, not only are commercial rents here exempt from any kind of regulation but landlords are not required to pay taxes on unoccupied commercial properties. This would explain why they can wait to rent the space to the “right” tenant. If this is truly the case, perhaps commercial rents would be less exorbitant if landlords were shelling out cash from their own pockets while their properties were vacant.

The likes of Barnes and Noble and Virgin Megastores closing outlets not because they're insolvent, but because their respective landlords have greed-soaked dreams of a once-in-a-lifetime insane! But that doesn't help those of us trying to keep our apartments and not fall victims to this rampant, massive price gouging going on in this city. Last week, the NYC Rent Guidelines Board gave landlords of rent-stabilized properties a significant rent increase. Meanwhile, the housing market in all its manifestations is tanking in the rest of the country, and we're getting rent increases, with median apartment prices above the $1 million mark. Just lovely.

And what’s with all these luxury buildings/towers popping up all over the place—are people becoming newly rich by the minute? Are we actually going to make the Bloomberg administration accountable for all of this unchecked, out of control construction of garish symbols of opulence, that have already cost the lives of workers and citizens with its faulty safety precautions? Damn it—something’s gotta give! Not even the tragedy and economic downturn exacerbated by the World Trade Center attack—the economy was already in bad shape—could level the real estate/rental market. Can we do anything about this? Is it too late? Or is it gonna take another Black Friday on Wall Street to bring this situation down to earth. If that’s what it comes down to, I just hope the hard-working and truly desrving people in this city can survive it. Otherwise...

Happy Juneteenth!