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Elected officials join Citibank and Bank of America to announce affordable housing plan amidst protest

In what is considered by some elected officials to be a significant step forward in aiding New Yorkers affected by the housing crisis, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was joined by other elected officials and representatives from Bank of America and Citibank at a press conference held outside the Sunset Park Library late last month to announce that the two banks will help finance the construction of over 2,300 affordable housing units in New York City.

“The landmark settlements that my office along with my federal counterparts have negotiated with several banks have led to projects like the one we are now announcing today and have helped us to put New Yorkers on a path to recovery,” said Schneiderman.

The two banks are providing nearly $75 million in investment by providing low-interest loans for 32 new and renovated affordable housing projects, 19 of which are in New York City.

“These affordable homes will help thousands of New Yorkers finally get past the housing crisis,” the attorney general added.

Although the move was applauded by some, Sunset Park residents who crashed the press conference expressed displeasure with the library expansion and affordable housing plan being pursued by the Fifth Avenue Committee that includes 49 units, holding up signs that read “Affordable for who?”

The crowd would have been bigger, protesters said, had the event been more publicized. “A lot of people in the community didn’t know a high powered press conference was taking place so a lot of people weren’t present. Nobody was alerted to it,” said Sunset resident Javier Nieves, who caught wind of the conference with a few other residents. “It’s an indication how they’re moving this housing plan over the library. It has been kept very secretive.”

“They didn’t answer where the interim library will be and there was no concern for the youth that need this library, added Jason Del Aguila, co-founder of El Grito De Sunset Park. “There needs to be more dialogue with our community because there hasn’t been any.”

Borough President Eric Adams addressed some of the protesters. “I want to thank the people who have signs that are here. It’s your energy that’s going to be in collaboration with the historical fighters in this community that we should not demonize,” he said. “I want school teachers to be able to live here. I want car wash employees to live here and they are low income.”

“I’ve been fighting for affordable housing all of my life. This library will be expanded by 20,000 feet and it will be modernized. How could you say that it is gentrification?” asked Congressmember Nydia Velazquez. “Fifty percent of these units will be for people who live in Community Board 7. Others will be for victims of domestic violence.”

“We must make housing affordable for our children and grandchildren so they don’t get displaced,” added Assemblymember Felix Ortiz, who thanked the Fifth Avenue Committee for its efforts.

Nonetheless, not everyone was as thankful. “It is a shame that the Fifth Avenue Committee, or Park Slope, now tells us what they are doing rather than involving us in the planning,” said Tony Giordano, executive director of Sunset Park Restoration. “Also, they are taking away the limited number of apartments and replacing them with institutional use. While we definitely need truly affordable apartments, this is not what we are really being offered.”

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