The UN Human Rights Council has a special rapporteur investigating affordable housing conditions in New York, which is depressing, frankly, unless you are Jonah Goldberg, in which case it is hilarious.
"This is the best story of the day!" Jonah writes. And then quotes:
At a town hall meeting last night in Morningside Heights, residents wept and shouted at Ms. Rolnik. They complained about deteriorating public housing, the lack of housing subsidies for AIDS patients, landlord harassment and many other issues, large and small.
Hah! Ha ha ha! Isn't that just a laugh riot, to you?
We suppose the "joke" is... the U.N. is ineffective? Like, it will investigate all of this and then send a sternly-worded letter to the president, or something. Right? Is that we we are supposed to find funny, here? Or is the very idea of the stupid UN thinking that "housing" is a "human right" the funny bit?
At an hour-long presentation at the Sedgwick Branch Library on University Avenue and 176th Street — a futuristic 90's building that looks part space shuttle and part Star Wars, — the rapportuer was told that in a four-square-mile area of the North and South Bronx, six private equity firms have officially driven 2,738 apartment units into foreclosure or risk of foreclosure.
Cesar Guzman, who lives at a building formerly owned by Ocelot Capital Group, said when Ocelot officially "disappeared" — meaning they literally can't be traced, they "packed up everything and left town" — they also left his 16-unit building in foreclosure and total disrepair, with things to this day "getting worse."
Other tenants told the the rapporteur similar horror stories. Dina Levy, organizing and policy director for the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board, who helped organize the tenants, found one common denominator in all these cases: buildings with over-leveraged mortgages that their rent revenues can't support.
And when a building is over-leveraged, said Levy, the landlord inevitably fails to maintain it. "The landlords have these outrageous mortgage payments," she said. "And they either have two choices: they can pay the mortgage, or they can fix the building."
Every single building holding the 2,738 endangered or foreclosed units saw a dramatic increase in violations, going from a handful to over 200 in less than a year. For Guzman and many others, this meant no heat and no hot water last winter. (He told us he took a cold shower this morning because the boiler broke down — again.)
Well, maybe you had to be there.