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Bill de Blasio barnstorms Bed-Stuy for his housing plan

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is joined by New York City Council member Robert Cornegy and a group of area residents at the corner of Fulton Street and Tomkins Avenue in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016. Credit: Steven Sunshine

Mayor Bill de Blasio barnstormed Saturday through beauty parlors and barber shops in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood to promote his housing agenda — escorted by the local city councilman who would not commit to supporting it, yet.

Like many other council members, Robert E. Cornegy Jr. wants the plan to require more apartments that poorer New Yorkers can afford.

“We’d love deeper affordability,” he said, expressing sympathy for the broader goals of the proposal, if not its current form.

“We are probably the epicenter of gentrification, and I need to do something immediately to stop this bleeding,” Cornegy said on Fulton Street, a busy thoroughfare of a neighborhood that saw average rents rise by 9 percent between 2014 and 2015, according to the Brooklyn Rental Market Report.

De Blasio’s plan, which is to be voted on by the full council late next month, requires real estate developers who want to build in rezoned neighborhoods to include some below-market-rate housing for the poorest New Yorkers in a mix of different income brackets.

Just how below the market rate those apartments should be priced, and what income levels qualify, are the subject of ongoing negotiations between the council and mayor.

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who controls the flow of legislation, said in a speech Thursday that she expects changes, including more units that are affordable to low-income New Yorkers.

It’s a question of equilibrium, says the de Blasio administration, because if the requirements to build below-market-rate housing will make it unprofitable for developers, they won’t want to build at all.

On Fulton, de Blasio was buttonholed by a social worker named Irwin Jeffrey, 59, who has spent most of his life in Brooklyn.

“There are people who are actually forcing — and not racists — black people out of the neighborhoods,” Jeffrey said. “And that is not right.”

“No, it’s not right,” de Blasio replied.

According to city statistics, between 2000 and 2010, the proportion of white residents in Bed-Stuy went to 15 percent from 2.4 percent and that of black residents went down to 60 percent from 75 percent.

During his walk along Fulton, the mayor also met Gail Bishop, a hairdresser who raised concerns about commercial rents also going up. She told de Blasio that her beauty parlor recently saw a sudden $300 monthly rent increase, to $1,900 from about $1,600.

“The rent is going up like crazy!” she told the mayor as she took a break from styling a woman’s hair.


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