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. He can be reached at howielisnoff.wordpress.com.

February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
Garry Leech
Terrifying Ted and His Ultra-Conservative Vision for America
Andrew Levine
Smash Clintonism: Why Democrats, Not Republicans, are the Problem
William Blum
Is Bernie Sanders a “Socialist”?
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
We Can’t Afford These Billionaires
Enrique C. Ochoa
Super Bowl 50: American Inequality on Display
Jonathan Cook
The Liberal Hounding of Julian Assange: From Alex Gibney to The Guardian
George Wuerthner
How the Bundy Gang Won
Mike Whitney
Peace Talks “Paused” After Putin’s Triumph in Aleppo 
Ted Rall
Hillary Clinton: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Gary Leupp
Is a “Socialist” Really Unelectable? The Potential Significance of the Sanders Campaign
Vijay Prashad
The Fault Line of Race in America
Eoin Higgins
Please Clap: the Jeb Bush Campaign Pre-Mortem
Joseph Mangano – Janette D. Sherman
The Invisible Epidemic: Radiation and Rising Rates of Thyroid Cancer
Andre Vltchek
Europe is Built on Corpses and Plunder
Jack Smith
Obama Readies to Fight in Libya, Again
Robert Fantina
As Goes Iowa, So Goes the Nation?
Dean Baker
Market Turmoil, the Fed and the Presidential Election
John Grant
Israel Moves to Check Its Artists
John Wight
Who Was Cecil Rhodes?
David Macaray
Will There Ever Be Anyone Better Than Bernie Sanders?
Christopher Brauchli
Suffer Little Children: From Brazil to Flint
JP Sottile
Did Fox News Help the GOP Establishment Get Its Groove Back?
Binoy Kampmark
Legalizing Cruelties: the Australian High Court and Indefinite Offshore Detention
John Feffer
Wrestling With Iran
Rob Prince – Ibrahim Kazerooni
Syria Again
Louisa Willcox
Park Service Finally Stands Up for Grizzlies and Us
Farzana Versey
Of Beyoncé, Trudeau and Culture Predators
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail