On the eve of a vote that would take another step towards privatizing a residential building in Clinton Hill, homeowners are divided.
The 24-story building at 21 St. James Place was originally built through the Mitchell-Lama program, which offers low and middle-income residents a chance at homeownership, under the purview of the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
Written into the program is a 20-year out period, after which the apartments can be turned into market-rate housing by a two-thirds vote of shareholders. The mortgage with the city must be paid off.
Lawrence Whiteside moved into the development the year it opened, and recalled when Clinton Hill wasn't a desirable neighborhood. Now, he believes he and the others should reap some benefit.
“We had to hire security guards,” he said “We had to close off the entrance on St. James Place because of almost daily muggings. We didn't move into this great lovely place.”
According to ten-year resident Courtney Shapiro, Thursday's vote would authorize additional money from the operating budget to hire a lawyer and accountant to create an offering plan. If approved, once an offering plan is accepted by the attorney general, the final vote will occur.
Shapiro is in favor of privatization, and feels the development is being unfairly targeted.
“I feel like we're being used as the poster child for affordable housing,” she said.
Joyce Stickney has been a resident of the building for five years, and believes it would be a mistake to go private.
She previously lived in a rent-stabilized apartment that became too expensive before buying at 21 St. James Place.
“Affordable housing is a big issue in New York City,” she said. “I'd rather be part of the solution than the problem.”
Marlene Steele's 99-year-old mother lives in the building and is nervous about the move to privatization.
“Why do we not want to leave the same opportunity that was available for us to someone else?” Steele asked.
Steele's sentiments are backed by elected officials urging for the preservation of the affordable housing.
“What about other hard-working people who want a chance to live here?” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “And what about the teachers and the police officer who, if you go private, will not be in a position to afford to live here? Should living in Clinton Hill only be an option for the rich?”
Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo warned there will be casualties if the residents vote for privatization.
“It's not disputable that the taxes will go up,” she said. “It's indisputable that the maintenance will go up, those are facts.”