Monday, November 5, 2012

Damocles, Deflected

 I know you've been worried about all the rich people who were forced to evacuate their luxury condos when the crane on an even more luxurious skyscraper in their neighborhood was ripped loose last week by Superstorm Sandy. But this morning, a palpable sense of relief is wafting through the plutosphere. The bothersome hunk of twisted metal dangling over many an entitled head has finally been tamed. The Sword of Damocles has been resheathed, to threaten again some other day. (Maybe in as little as two days, when another nor'easter is forecast to whip on through.)

The financially secure in this Park Avenue-area community are once again mentally and physically secure. One well-heeled woman was actually quoted as saying that her long national nightmare was over, as she hastened back into the Briarcliff building on W. 57th Street. (the cheapest condos there start at $1 million.) The pain of the crane is gone with the rain.

Meanwhile, as many as 40,000 less well-off people have been rendered homeless by the storm, and are expected to remain that way for quite some time. Now that Mayor Bloomberg has gotten personally involved in fixing the crane and opening the New York Stock Exchange, he is finally admitting that housing is quite the dilemma in a city where it was at a premium to begin with. Even before Sandy hit, though, Bloomberg was being his proactive self, hatching a plan to construct shoebox-sized housing units as part of his ongoing public-private partnership real estate racket. This is defined as public money being funneled into projects that ultimately end up enriching developers.

The Bloomberg micro-units are micro-managed with young affluent one-percenters in mind -- meaning that poor families will face even more of a squeeze when it comes to locating affordable living spaces, according to public housing advocates.

Want to add insult to injury? It turns out that the developer of One57 (a/k/a the Billionaire Crane Building) qualifies for a special tax break in return for "sponsoring" construction of affordable housing elsewhere in the city. The savings will be passed right on to the wealthy purchasers, while the developer, Extell, collects the usual high rents from the poor, laughing all the way to the bank.
Under the plan, the buyer of One57’s $90 million, 13,554-square-foot penthouse on the 75th and 76th floors would pay just $20,000 a year in taxes, instead of the estimated $230,000 without the break.
Even more injuriously insulting is the loophole by which Extell doesn't even have to actually build the affordable housing itself. Corporate-friendly law allows it to wheel and deal on the open voucher-type market with building contractors. One deal that would have used the tax abatements to construct a low-income housing project in the Bronx fell through last year, so the developer is still shopping it around. And now, with the sudden windfall of a housing shortage resulting from Sandy, I imagine that even more mighty hordes of barbarians will be clamoring at the gates for a piece of the disaster capitalism pie.

Critics at the Pratt Center for Community Development point out that the $755 million in revenue losses caused by the tax abatements could have saved the jobs of every laid-off teacher and firefighter in the city -- not to mention the $100 million in cuts to the library system.

I can just hear one huge oligarchic sigh of relief, one giant mutual back-slap in the hallowed halls of the corporatocracy, as the Sandy clean-up continues. In the immortal words of that other craven mayor, Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
One57: The High Price of Tax Breaks for Billionaires


Zee said...

On the general topic of making sure that the elites are coddled in the wake of Sandy's devastation--this time, at the expense of National Guardsmen who are trying to help clean up the mess--the Victoria's Secret runway show will go on!

Denis Neville said...

Chicago's Rahm Emanuel, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste.”

Spoken like a true disciple of Milton Friedman, the Godfather of free market, i.e., disaster, capitalism.

“A belief is like a guillotine, just as heavy, just as light.” - Franz Kafka

Massive disasters like Katrina and Sandy are what the plutocrats wait for so that they can implement their economic shock doctrine of swift, irreversible change before a reeling society can respond.

Obama loves us once again (it’s an election year)! Prepare to be ground up into sausage.

Corporate CEOs unveil Obama’s second term agenda: cutting “entitlements.”

“Alas," said the mouse, "the whole world is growing smaller every day. At the beginning it was so big that I was afraid, I kept running and running, and I was glad when I saw walls far away to the right and left, but these long walls have narrowed so quickly that I am in the last chamber already, and there in the corner stands the trap that I must run into."

"You only need to change your direction," said the cat, and ate it up.” - Franz Kafka

America, the Land of Opportunity!

“Poor people never, or hardly ever, ask for an explanation of all they have to put up with. They hate one another, and content themselves with that.

“We never change. Neither our socks nor our masters nor our opinions, or we're so slow about it that it's no use. We were born loyal and that's what killed us! Soldiers free of charge, heroes for everyone else, talking monkeys, tortured words, we are the minions of King Misery...It's not a life.” - Louis-Ferdinand Céline