Affordable Housing or Lack Thereof
Death of the Middle Class
In her 2013 State of the City speech, City Council Speaker and Democratic mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn focused on housing affordability—namely middle-class housing.
Ms. Quinn’s headline proposal is to “build 40,000 new middle-income affordable apartments over ten years.” It’s unclear what definition of “middle-income” she would use, but the Middle Class Squeeze report that she released earlier today defines middle class as “households with incomes between 100 percent and 300 percent of area median income.”
On a recent January evening, the stretch of East Ninth Street visible from the rain-smeared window of the salon Lovemore & Do was bleary and indistinct. In the haze of fog and car exhaust, it was easy to imagine the East Village as the grimy heart of bohemia it once was.
With hair swept up in a red bandana, stylist Sue Palchak-Essenpreis looks like the standard-bearer of that fading neighborhood ethos, but that morning she had selected her vintage outfit from a closet in New Jersey. Last summer, Ms. Palchak-Essenpreis and her husband Greg, a social worker, were evicted from their apartment at 50 East Third Street. After 16 years in the East Village, they finally gave up.
“I try not to think about it too much,” she said, pulling at the tufts on the pale blue pillow in her lap as she spoke. “There’s a medical center at the end of the block, so at least we have some sirens that make us feel at home.”
The Essenpreises’ story, at first glance, might appear to be just another retelling of the tale that every New Yorker knows by heart: that dark parable of gentrification and displacement more familiar to us than Little Red Riding Hood’s ill-fated walk through the woods.