How I Landed a $38,000 Apartment in Brooklyn Heights

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Finding an affordable home in New York City can sometimes seem impossible. With apartments in neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy now going for millions, the city seems increasingly inaccessible to middle class folks. We've been hearing Mayor de Blasio talk a lot about it since he ran for office on his Tale of Two Cities theme, including on Friday when he appointed an official to solve what he sees as an affordable housing crisis.

But I’m one of the lucky ones. Back in 2010, I landed on the wait list for an apartment in Cadman Towers, a Mitchell-Lama co-op in Brooklyn Heights that opened in 1971. About three years later, my name came up and I was able to buy a 600-square-foot one bedroom with a balcony for a little more than $38,000. It was probably the only way I – a single, 32-year-old, public radio employee – was ever going to achieve the American dream in New York City.

The Mitchell-Lama program was created in 1955 with the goal of providing housing options for middle income residents. In New York City, 174 rental and co-op buildings were created under the program. (You can find a list of open wait lists here.) After a certain number of years, building owners can leave the program and make their units market rate. So far, 96 have done just that. It’s an outcome that’s alarming to some housing advocates.

The state has not funded Mitchell-Lama for years, but on Friday, Bronx State Senator Jeffrey Klein and fellow members of the Independent Democratic Conference, said they would push to set aside $750 million to revive the housing program in the state’s budget.

Some critics say New York City already has way too much affordable housing and that the city's sky-high housing prices are a result, in part, of properties protected from the free market. In short, they say New Yorkers who have rent control or Mitchell-Lama apartments never give them up, at least not until they die. And that's exactly how my home became available to me.


Julianne Welby


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Comments [6]

BkGurl78 from Brooklyn, NY

Tracie, After your number was called how difficult was it to get in? Is there a very rigorous interview process? My number just came up and I'm super excited and extremely curious about what happens next!

Jul. 04 2014 10:25 AM
John Cas from NYC

DId everyone here forget that those low income units are subsidized by all NY taxpayers... Someone please tell me why we need a system which demands public assistance so that everyday NYers can afford their mortgage payment/rent check.

I think the whole system needs a second look and common sense regulation can eliminate the need for subsidized housing in which "slumlords" are made whole by ponzi banking loans and tax fed grant programs/rent subsidy checks.

The answer is simply NOT more "affordable housing programs" without re-evaluating why they haven't worked for the first 30 years of being implemented. (that is not to say they haven't helped, just why haven't they FIXED the problem).

Feb. 23 2014 04:02 PM

mitchell- lama may be the only co-op that works out for the middle income.
The rest of the middle income rent controlled apartments converted to co-ops are the cash-cows of the original landlord, to top it off the AG office refuses to enforce the co-op laws, know as the BCL's. Fixed and illegal elections, self-dealing, Bldg mortgages from the bank that the owner of the managing company is on the board and the president of co-op is an investor in, Board members not paying sublease feel's in over 25 years. Telling buyers that the owner-occup ration is 90%, in reality it is less than 60%. That Is crinal ,but westchester DA refuses to do anything

Feb. 10 2014 04:16 PM
chris from brooklyn

Congratulations Tracie. I have also secured an apartment in a mitchell-lama building and while I thank the "powers that be" I also thank the LAWS THAT STILL EXIST that made it possible. We all should want to preserving this type of housing, encouraging the city to build more of it and voting NO to privatization of our buildings.

Feb. 10 2014 10:22 AM
Jef Klein

The middle and working classes built this country, including the housing, and made it great. The man who spoke at the end with dissatisfaction that there was too much affordable housing in the city ought to be ashamed of himself. Why shouldn't cops, teachers, sanitation workers, health care workers, public employees, and employees of arts and non profit institutions be able to live in the city they serve? If we leave it to the rich they will steal our city out from under us.

Feb. 09 2014 11:00 AM
eleniNYC from Jackson Heights

As I remember having lived closely to those who were victimized by this. Under the Giuliani & Bloomberg Administrations there was a fervant push to end and virtually eradicate affordable housing in NYC arguing of a glut of affordable and low-income housing which were code words for targetting to push out the working middle class and working class poor and the poor. Giuliani changed the welfare law to make it mandetory for those up to a certain age on public assistance to work, which by the way no one on public assistance really had a problem with. In fact many of those on public assistance felt better about the ability to return to work. We know this because crime in NYC dropped to more than half by the end of that year. And dropping in following years to the point we were almost considered-- and I use this term loosely as a NYC native--" a safe city " -- whatever that means. By the end of the 2nd Bloomberg administration, building construction projects that were supposed to have affordable units for the middle income working class , those units were turned into parking lots. Vis-a-vis The Barclay's Center. An other example: LIC/ Queens Plaza . These plots of City land sold to developers at fairmarket or below market value constructed these architectural high-rise abortions then flipped the properties /units themselves into pied-terres for the well heeled thus freezing out middle-income City workers like myself from ever buying. To add insult to injury on this, the Bloomberg Admin. with the help of the banks rubber stamped tax abatements for all these property owners in the name of" these wealthy owners will help pay the City taxes". Bloomberg also told us: "If you can't pay the rent, then move to another City". Lest we forget that the banks didn't & still won't give mortgages because of their irresponsible track record for rubber stamping the applications of unstable borrowers. The banks helped create the mess we're in then demanded to be bailed out & now are going to the other extreme. I think DiBlasio and the City Council are going to need at least 2 terms of damage control tactics before they can actually institute their own agendas & policies.

Feb. 08 2014 09:07 PM

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