ICYMI: William Botchway Testifies Against Rent Increases

Last month, Neighborhood Defender Service’s William Botchway testified against the rent increases in New York City. See the transcript and video below:

“My family has only ever lived in two places: Ghana and Flushing, Queens. My grandparents came to this country and saw this neighborhood in 1971, where they still live today… Flushing is my home; I cannot imagine living anywhere else. I often tell people that our rent-stabilized apartment is the only reason I still live in New York, in my home, in my neighborhood. However, accelerating the rate at which rent increases threatens to take that reality away from me and other rent-stabilized households throughout the city. That’s my personal experience. Allow me to share my professional one as well. I work in Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a public defense office where we assist housing-insecure workers daily.

For each percentage point that rent goes up, that’s another few dozen of my clients and their families who cannot afford it. People are already living on the margin, spending sometimes 70% of their income on their rent. These numbers aren’t adding up, and there’s nowhere for these people to go. There are 27 apartments listed for under $1,500 across the entire city, and that number includes unsafe and illegal basement units. When we allow rent-stabilized apartments to become unaffordable, where will the people live?

You may want to shrug your shoulders; nothing happened. Let me say this: if you’re in this room today, chances are you love New York City. You think this place is special. So do I.

Those advocating for higher rents clearly disagree with me about what makes this place special. New York is special because of the people and the families who have made it so for centuries. When those people are not able to afford to live here anymore, it will just be a place with big buildings and a soulless underbelly: a playground for the wealthy, shell LLCs, and their tax-shelter pied-a-terres. New York City is not your playground. There are real people with real communities and real families who are being forced out daily for marginal gains on a balance sheet. How is a reasonable response to the ongoing crisis the largest rent increases in a decade? The board has an obligation to reverse course and provide relief to our neighbors who are struggling.”