by Andy Battle
This morning Professional Staff Congress (PSC) President Barbara Bowen sent a message to members touting an opportunity for so-called “affordable” housing that is hilariously out of reach for all but the highest-paid members of our bargaining unit. The developers of Stuy Town, once a symbol of state-negotiated affordability where the median rent on opening day in 1947 was $71, or 15% of the median income of the average NYC family, have begrudgingly offered a lottery where if your lucky number comes up, you will have the privilege of paying $2800 for one of a limited number of one-bedroom apartments. For a two-bedroom, the price goes to $3400. In one recent such lottery, over 56,000 people applied for 86 units in a new building built along the banks of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn. In Queens it was worse–93,000 applicants for 31 units.
To the average PSC member, this must feel like a sick joke. What the union’s PR team couldn’t bring themselves to print is that you must make at least $84,150 simply to be permitted to enter the lottery. A CUNY adjunct working at the starting rate negotiated by current PSC leadership would have to teach 25+ courses a year to reach this minimum threshold. Four courses a semester is regarded by most teachers as a full load and PSC rules prohibit adjuncts from teaching more than five–and these must be spread out among more than one campus. In other words, for the PSC members who teach the majority of CUNY classes and who are part of today’s working poor, this is a strange gift indeed. Indeed, the $84,150 figure puts these so-called “affordable” units out of reach of even most tenure-line faculty at CUNY. Why PSC leadership is “proud,” as Bowen claims, to have helped negotiate this irrelevant offer is difficult to understand.
Several weeks ago PSC members debated whether to endorse Bill de Blasio for a second term as mayor. While CUNY Struggle members argued at the Delegate Assembly for a non-endorsement in service of what will sooner or later be a necessary break with a Democratic Party that actively thwarts the goals of working people, or, failing that, a pause in the rush to endorse the mayor extraordinarily early and with no strings attached, the endorsement was approved by a majority of the union’s delegates in attendance. Let us just be clear that when we endorse de Blasio, this is the definition of “affordable” housing that we are endorsing.