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July 2, 2014
by EmmaPattiz
(l-r) Robin Nagle, Associate Professor of Anthropology at NYU, and Anthropologist-in-Residence, DSNY; Nick Dawber, Managing Director, Energos; Juliette Spertus, co-founder, Closed Loops; Antonio Reynoso, NYC Council Member, District 34 and Chair, Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management

During a particularly frantic budget period, the New York City Council Committee on Aging asked city agencies and the public: “How can the city expand and preserve affordable housing options for seniors?” The 06.18.14 oversight hearing also addressed Intro. 337, a local law to create a senior housing task force. Providing adequate affordable housing for New York City’s growing senior population requires the coordination of a diverse set of agencies, including the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and the NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA), both represented at the hearing.

A number of Committee on Aging members raised a variety of concerns and potential solutions. For example, when financially-strapped seniors submit applications to the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA), and eventually make their way off of the lengthy waitlist, they are often assigned to units in developments far from their longtime neighborhoods. Under the federal government’s Fair Housing Act, applicants cannot select location preferences, but the Committee on Aging members argued that seniors should have the right to age in their communities, where they are comfortable. A number of the City Council members even identified sites in their districts that could ably accommodate affordable senior housing developments.

Council members also addressed seniors living in neighborhoods that are gentrifying. Many seniors do not live in rent-stabilized apartments and do not qualify for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE). Without legal protections, they are getting priced out of their homes. The Committee on Aging is committed to researching solutions to help these seniors age in place, and find alternatives to referring them to waitlists.

Another priority is the essential intersection between senior housing and resiliency. HPD, DFTA, and the Mayor’s Office for Emergency Management (OEM) must collaborate. During disasters that cut power and utilities, home-bound seniors can be trapped for long periods of time without help or resources. Seniors’ homes must be resilient to disaster.

Christine Hunter, AIA, LEED AP, testified on behalf of the AIANY Design for Aging Committee (DFA) in favor of the proposed task force, and provided recommendations for how the City Council can facilitate better housing for aging New Yorkers. DFA suggests developing a modestly-priced “toolkit” that could help private owners easily upgrade their buildings. The committee also advocates exploring ways to incentivize building owners to allow elderly residents to remain in their buildings or immediate neighborhoods, but move to smaller apartments on lower floors. DFA also encourages the City Council Committee on Aging to review and modify existing codes to allow for greater flexibility. DFA looks forward to continuing to serve as a resource in achieving the goal of a more age-friendly environment in New York City.

Pulse Points

  • On 06.18.14, the AIANY Committee on the Environment (COTE) hosted “GETTING WASTED: The Future of NYC Garbage and Its Impact on Our Urban Environment” at the Center for Architecture. The dynamic program explored issues surrounding waste management in New York City, and opportunities to render the process more sustainable, cost effective, and better-integrated into the urban infrastructure. New York City Council Member and Chair of the Committee on Sanitation and Solid Waste Management Antonio Reynoso introduced and moderated the panel. It was his first time at the Center and his presence emphasized the importance of this topic to the future of the city. Robin Nagle, associate professor of Anthropology at NYU and anthropologist-in-residence at the NYC Department of Sanitation, gave an overview of the history of sanitation in the city. Nick Dawber, managing director of Energos, provided examples of alternative waste management systems in Europe. And Juliette Spertus, co-founder of Closed Loops, talked about how design can impact our relationship to sanitation.
  • The National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) recently proposed or enacted a number of changes to the path to licensure. There have been misunderstandings about these updates in the media, so please visit NCARB.org for more information. NCARB recognizes the diversity of the candidate pool and is working to remove unnecessary administrative obstacles in the licensure process.
  • Shortly after 1:00AM on 06.26.14, New York City Council passed the $75 billion budget. Some highlights include: funding for universal pre-K; capital funding and staff to carry out Mayor de Blasio’s affordable housing plan; increased funding to parks for maintenance and expansion; and funding for NYCHA housing developments, community centers, and senior centers
  • NYC City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod announced the appointment of Purnima Kapur as the next executive director of the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP). Kapur is currently the director of DCP’s Brooklyn office. Read the press release here.
  • Mayor de Blasio has appointed Joseph Esposito as commissioner of the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM). Esposito will be responsible for preparing the city for natural and man-made emergencies, coordinating disaster response among all city agencies, and educating residents about disaster preparedness. Read the press release here.
  • Mayor de Blasio also nominated Larisa Ortiz, Cheryl Cohen Effron, and Bomee Jung to the City Planning Commission, and Marcie Kesner to the Landmarks Preservation Commission. Read the press release here.
  • Mayor de Blasio signed legislation that allows the NYC Department of Buildings to waive pre-construction fees for contractors operating under the city’s Build It Back program. Previously, contractors had to pay the fees on behalf of homeowners to then be reimbursed by the city. This law should expedite the recovery process. Read the press release here.

Emma Pattiz is the Policy Coordinator at the AIA New York Chapter.

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