NEW YORK—When Judy Mivaglia moved into one of the Independence Plaza apartments in Tribeca 30 years ago, the neighborhood was filled with coffee factories and warehouses—hardly the attractive downtown location it is today.
Now, when she wakes up and looks around her one-bedroom apartment in the mornings, she’s filled with worry of her impending, mandated move. “When I go to the mailbox, I start to shake,” said Mivaglia. The prospect of receiving a 30-day moving notice has worsened her anxiety, and she has considered increasing the amount of medication she takes.
On Wednesday, elected officials from the federal, state, and city levels joined tenants at city hall to call on the city’s department of Housing, Preservation, and Development to stop these moves.
Independence Plaza was built under the Mitchell-Lama rent protection program in 1973, and has been transitioning to market rate as the program expired. The tenants who moved in under the program were told when the program expired, they could continue to receive the federal subsidies through Section 8.
In order to save money, last year HPD mandated downsizing to smaller units for all residents who live in apartments with more rooms than they need. The renter would pay the same amount of rent for the smaller unit. Single residents receiving Section 8 subsidies used to be eligible for one-bedroom apartments, but now they would have to move to studios regardless of whether they were in three-bedroom apartments or one- bedroom apartments. Single parents with one child over the age of four would need to move to one-bedroom apartments.
Seniors are among the most affected, as their children move out and spouses pass away, they are left in apartments that may be larger than they need. Harri Molese had voluntarily moved from a three-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment when her children left, but now she is afraid she will have to move again, to a 12-by-16 foot room with no space for her belongings.
“You can’t move people around like chess pieces,” said Rita Popper, co-founder of Housing Advocates Against Downsizing. She had also moved to a smaller apartment as her family left, and has kept a big book of receipts from that move. HPD did not provide any assistance.
Many of the tenants have not been asked to move yet, simply because there aren’t enough studios. Elected officials have called on HPD to stop the process and study other ways to save money because seniors are disproportionately affected.
A letter sent by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer in May received no reply, and no further answers were given at a recent City Council hearing. HPD has said reasonable accommodations would be found for those who needed to move, but could not elaborate at the hearing.
The officials also said HPD has not been able to provide the cost saving figures, and that many of the moves are based on projected cuts to Section 8 funding that have yet to be made.
HPD did not return a request for comment.
Attorney Norman Siegel said if the administration went forward with the downsizing and moved seniors or the disabled from one-bedroom apartments to studios for the same rent, tenants will sue HPD.