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Back to the drawing board: NYCHA tenants rally against ‘A Blueprint for Change’

NYCHA residents smashed paper mache eggs with the words "Blueprint for Change" and "Privatization" at a rally on 90 Church Street.

That’s the message NYCHA residents from across the city had for the embattled public housing agency during a rally outside its executive offices Tuesday morning against “A Blueprint for Change” and the squalid living conditions many have endured for years.

Some of the 150 protesters at Silverstein’s Family Park in Lower Manhattan on March 23 took to smashing papier-maché eggs against labels reading “A Blueprint for Change,” referencing NYCHA’s plans to remodel public housing across the city.

“We say no to the blueprint! It was launched back on July of 2020 by Mr. Greg Russ during a pandemic,” said Ronald Topping, president of the Tenant Association President of John Adams Houses in Melrose, Bronx, to a rousing round of boos decrying this plan before he continued. “There is nothing permanent, there is nothing affordable, and there is no commitment.”

Protesters stated that “A Blueprint for Change” brings private investors into public housing.

The NYC Housing Authority’s website describes A Blueprint for Change as a set of ideas that evaluate where to invest capital toward renovations of NYCHA properties the properties to help residents in the 110,000 apartments that the authority controls.

The catch, to which many protesters bristled, is that while NYCHA will remain the owner, a long-term ground lease will be created with the Public Housing Trust Preservation, who will raise the money for the repairs. The Trust is said to answer to NYCHA directly.

Some residents declare this is not the change they desire.

Many who dwell within these complexes fear that the properties will eventually be privatized through debt agreements with investors — something which the city vehemently denies. This has, in turn, caused anxiety that renters will no longer be able to afford their homes during a time when they have already been disparately impacted by the novel coronavirus.

“We are here in such a time as this because our government has failed us. In the year 2021 we are still fighting for repairs,” said Saundrea I. Coleman, an activist organizer with the Isaacs Coalition as she describes the racial and socioeconomic history of how public housing was placed on the backburner of government funding.

NYCHA residents are demanding transparency and accountability for the deplorable living conditions in public housing.

“Now decades later our savior is privatization schemes? Actually not, no! NYCHA is responsible for their portfolio. They are the ones that got us in these deplorable conditions. They are the ones responsible for eradicating it. Keep public housing public and stop making developers richer! It is shameful in a pandemic that NYCHA is pushing their Blueprint plan. We are sick and tired of their privatization schemes,” Coleman said, describing the health dangers of living in NYCHA.

Coleman listed several inhumane and unsanitary conditions, citing incidents of residents having lead poisoning and chronic asthma. She and many of the protesters called for the repairs to be made immediately and demanded the cancelation of rent. They are calling out NYCHA for the mismanagement of funds and want accountability, transparency and a full-scale criminal investigation to be made.

These outcries for fair treatment and clean housing were followed by chants, such as “No justice, no peace,” and “One NYCHA, one people.”

Pounding drums and brandishing signs, speakers also stood up and proclaimed they were not going to sit idly by, and instead, hold those responsible who neglected them during a global pandemic.

Protesters blamed Greg Russ for pushing NYCHA’s “Blueprint for Change” plan during a global pandemic.

After an hour of talk, the group took action. Marching to the NYCHA offices located on 90 Church Street, the crowd laid gigantic paper mache eggs with the words “A Blueprint for Change” written across their shells in front of the entranceway. Here they smashed the shells with punches and kicks, revealing paper yoke reading, “Privatization.”

In response to the rally, a NYCHA representative shared the following statement: “These protestors are spreading information that is inaccurate. The result is encouraging NYCHA residents to settle for the status quo. NYCHA has engaged with hundreds of groups and thousands of residents to discuss PACT and the Blueprint for Change, strategies that will bring $40 Billion in capital funding to our more than 300 developments, preserving all of our units. NYCHA residents and all New Yorkers have demanded that we bring real solutions and relief to our families, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

They demanded that public housing stay public.

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