Council Connection ”The Bronx Tragedy Shows Why Workers Must Fight For Safe, High Quality And Affordable Housing For All
At least 17 people have died, including eight children, after a Bronx apartment building caught fire in New York’s deadliest blaze in decades on Sunday. It comes just days after a fire in a overcrowded row house in philadelphia killed 12.
Socialist Alternative and I extend our deepest condolences and solidarity to the families and individuals who have suffered unimaginable losses.
These tenants deserved safe, quality and affordable housing. Far from being inevitable, these tragedies – like the Grenfell building fire in 2017 in London – are the result of the deep and endemic housing injustice facing workers and the poor under global capitalism. .
The Bronx building, called Twin Parks North West, is home to some of New York’s poorest working-class residents, many of whom are African immigrant families who depend on Section 8 housing vouchers and aid. to rent. A faulty radiator in one of the apartments was the apparent source of the fire. As the family fled, the door to their apartment did not close and thick smoke filled the hallways as other residents attempted to escape. This apartment door was supposed to close automatically, according to a New York City law passed in 2018 requiring all building doors closing automatically by July 2021.
Records show that tenants at Twin Parks North West have repeatedly reported over the months and years that their the apartments had no heating, and that they had faulty radiators and broken ventilation systems. Many residents reported that fire alarms were often heard five or six times a day, so they were often ignored. Building had no fire escapes or sprinklers – according to Fire Marshal Daniel Nigro, the building “was potentially constructed outside of New York City’s fire code.” There have been more than two dozen violations and complaints filed by residents, including complaints of cockroaches, rats and mice, water leaks and multiple cases of non-functional elevators. Problems in the building were ongoing despite previous owners receiving $ 25 million in state loans for building repairs in 2013.
New York Mayor Eric Adams said his takeaway of the Bronx fire was to “close the door”, which seems to imply that the family of eight who fled for their lives are at fault for not closing a door that should have been automatically closed by law. new York City. Mayor Adams has launched an “educational campaign” to teach children to keep doors closed. This patently absurd and dishonest insistence on this human tragedy exposes Adams’ real political agenda. Adams ran for office on a platform that promised to build more overcrowded “micro-units” and also pledged to convert 25,000 hotel rooms into apartments which experts say would not be able to meet zoning or conversion requirements.
The North West Twin Parks the building was acquired in 2020 by LIHC Investment Group, Belveron Partners and Camber Property Group in a $ 166 million deal for eight rent-regulated buildings in the Bronx. They bought the building from an international real estate group led by Rubin Schron, a real estate mogul with a net worth of over $ 3 billion. Camber Property Group co-founders are Rick Gropper, a member of New York Mayor Eric Adams’ transition team for housing issues, and Andrew Moelis, son of Ron Moelis, an affordable housing developer and donor to Democrats. Camber Property Group is promoting itself as a provider of ‘quality’ affordable housing, but rather than making desperately needed repairs to decades-old buildings like Twin Parks North West, Gropper and Moelis have spent over $ 260 million in 2021 to add affordable housing buildings to their business. investment portfolio.
A few days before the Bronx fire, Andrew Gerdon of LIHC Investment Group, another of the owners, said naked in an interview, “There are very few asset classes with more proven resilience and endurance than affordable housing and competition for offers in the five boroughs remains extremely high. This is the sickening reality of the capitalist system. The few affordable apartment buildings that still exist in major cities are being sold off by corporate politicians (most often from the Democratic Party) to wealthy investors, whose very intention is to keep the housing as cheap as possible. , by cutting as many corners as underfunded. , weakened government oversight will allow it. The lives of struggling, low-income tenants are reduced to mere stock market assets generating additional profits for the ultra-rich.
Housing will never be high quality or affordable for most of us as long as it exists to line the pockets of the rich. The tragedy of the Bronx fire should remind us of how urgently we must organize to fight back. It’s also a reminder that working people just can’t kid themselves about the Democratic Party and political friends of big business and the rich. The only way forward is to create strong, independent, mass movements of tenants, unions and ordinary workers to demand safe, high quality and affordable housing for all at all times.
Mass tenant movements can and should demand that their buildings, and the parasitic investment companies that own them, be taken into public ownership where tenants can exercise democratic control over their homes and communities. We need to tax the richest corporations to rapidly develop affordable, high-quality public housing on a permanent basis, and to update all existing affordable housing to meet the highest safety standards. On top of that, tenants around the world need seamless universal rent control, such as the bill that my council office introduced and is organizing to win alongside simple popular tenants.
the brave struggle of hundreds of low income tenants, Black and brown seniors and immigrant families at Rainier Court Apartments in Seattle show what is possible. These tenants, alongside my Council office and community supporters, including Socialist Alternative, forced their landlord (SEED) to reverse the huge 2021 rent increases for the four buildings – a massive victory. My office has been organizing alongside Rainier Court tenants for almost four months now, and they still face many of the same issues of infestations, widespread and longstanding lack of repairs, and shockingly substandard conditions reported. by tenants of Twin Parks North West.
Despite the enormous odds, the Rainier Court fight, as well as our fight in Seattle alongside hundreds of working class tenants, unions and tenant organizations for tenant rights laws and increased tenant protection, shows that when tenants organize and fight, they can win. The horrific tragedies of Philadelphia and the Bronx make it clear what is at stake for working people every day under capitalism, and why we must fight to win a socialist world.