FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Income Chasm in New York City

by HOWARD LISNOFF

Census data from the 2010 Census about poverty in New York City came as no surprise. In “New York City Poverty Rate Rises As Gap Between Rich And Poor Widens,” (The Huffington Post, September 20, 2012) reports that poverty in the city rose for a third straight year with about 74,000 people falling below the poverty line of $11,500 for a single person ($23,210 for a family of four). The Post cited a New York Times report that 21 percent of New Yorkers were considered poor, while the top fifth income bracket in the city had income of $223,285, up $1,919 from 2010. The median income of the lowest fifth, however, was $8,844, a decrease of $463 from 2010. Manhattan recorded a jump of 1.9 percent in poverty in 2011, with the Bronx having the highest poverty rate of the five boroughs at 30.4 percent. The article quotes a spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, stating that the Times report “mirrored a national trend.”

I recently spoke with Sarah, a worker at a homeless shelter in Manhattan, to talk about the issues of poverty and race. Sarah began our discussion with a comment about the cost of housing in the city. She stated that the average cost of a one room apartment in the city is $3,300 a month. With the high cost of housing and the increasing rate of poverty in the city, Sarah asked, “At that cost, where are poor people supposed to live?”

According to Sarah, there are no new Section 8 (federal housing subsidies) to be had, and the city got rid of the Work Advantage program three years ago. “They got rid of this rental subsidy program for people who came out of drug treatment programs, which left this homeless class of people paying rent at the going market value.”

New York’s Human Resource Administration and the Department of Homeless Services require that homeless people “work full time and save 60 percent of their income for an apartment. Most people are being pushed into $8, $9, or $10 per hour jobs that can’t nearly reach the 60 percent income threshold for housing costs. The homeless also can’t be expected to pay for other necessities with the hourly wages that are currently paid.”

Sarah spoke about the state of job training programs in the city. “Job training programs are not encouraged because they’re not work programs. School is completely out. So there are no paths for people to follow to improve their income earning potential.”

Back to the subject of housing, Sarah observed, “Do the math: people end up back in single room occupancy units (SROs) at $500, $600, or $700 per month. And the SROs are depressing. Living in a single room long term is both sad and impossible with children.”

Sarah sees the process of gentrification, which has been going on for decades in New York City as one of the causes of the perfect storm of homelessness that she sees daily. “Gentrification is the result of a political and an economic system that caters to the rich. The city is so gentrified that even the original gentrifiers can’t afford to live here anymore. Housing in the borough of Manhattan is not even affordable to college graduates any longer.”

The homeless shelter that Sarah works in provides services for men. Most men who use the shelter have no family, have developmental disabilities, are illiterate, and have behavioral problems.  Sarah says that the system “tells them to get a job.” Almost all of the men in the shelter are black or Hispanic. The system is “punitive” according to Sarah. “If the men don’t go into the city’s work programs, then they try to filter them into $8 per hour jobs. Back to work programs are places where men wait until they’re offered dead-end jobs. Most of the men of color in the program have petty criminal offenses in their records that make it even harder for them to even get $8 per hour jobs.  And rooming programs require credit checks that the men’s petty offenses may turn up on.”

Sarah sees several forces working against black men who use the shelter. They have to deal with criminal records for petty offenses, they’re displaced by gentrification, and the result is that there is an ongoing destruction of existing black communities. They don’t have the kind of education to succeed in this economy and they can’t subsist on $9 per hour jobs. She views the city’s stop and frisk policy as a purposeful effort to give people criminal records. Since 2002 the city has conducted five million stop and frisks, a policy of both the Bloomberg administration and the New York Police Department that has been ruled unconstitutional by a federal district judge. “Judge Rules NYPS ‘Stop and Frisk’ Unconstitutional, Cites ‘Indirect Racial Profiling’” (Democracy Now, August 13. 2013).

Sarah’s experiences as a worker at a homeless shelter are reflected in Census data and the continuing and widening gap between the haves and the have nots. Her account of what is happening to a segment of the population in New York City is a telling indictment of the system of Jim Crow and the war on the working class that lives on in this nation today.

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He can be reached at howielisnoff@gmail.com.

 

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail