Interview with Robert Fitch

Robert Fitch, author of The Assassination of New York, teaches at New York University.

Discussing the financing for Queens West:

 The problem in New York City is not where rich people could live--rich people have a choice of a lot of neighborhoods--the problem is providing housing for a city in which conditions are getting worse and worse and housing rents are going higher and higher, and the housing policy was only focused on the top 10% of the income bracket, and that it is subsidized.

We are talking about people who are going to have an income that is three times the median (the median incomes are about 23,000 dollars) and incidentally, the median income keeps falling. Its been falling since the mid-Eighties and the reason why it is falling is because of projects like Queens West, which gobble up jobs and displace communties, and as a consequence people are forced more and more into low-paying service jobs and you get a dynamic (in) which there is less and less market for middle class housing and you need more and more subsidies to be able to build projects like this.

This is a big subsidized project, 2.3 billion dollars--and it seems to me to create more problems than it could possibly solve.

The prices for office space have gone down substantially. They keep talking about this big renaissance and that conditions will improve tremendously, (but) it doesnt seem to me that youd constantly be dropping your price if things are that great.

The inference that we can draw is that these people dont know what theyre doing, they are not accountable to anybody--they spend hundreds of millions, of billions of dollars, and it doesnt make any difference, because they dont have to account to anybody for having done it, they just make a big mess and that is it.

Todays New York Times had a piece about how housing rents are going through the roof and what strikes me about it... there is no economic boom in the city... I just looked at the numbers for (construction of) new housing units--its been averaging about 4,000 a year for the last 2 or 3 years... It has fallen to a level that is lower than during the Great Depression... The only units that theyre building are for the upper income groups. With $34,000 to $86,000 (minimum income levels for the Queens West building) --my guess is that it is going to be skewed towards the $86,000."

Is Queens West another episode in the Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (FIRE) mentality discussed in your book?

 "I think that it is one of the most dramatic examples of the absolute mindlessness in the capacity of the FIRE mentality, because you cant say that Long Island City is a dump or that it is all decaying or that the factories here are blighted. There are 50,000 jobs here... about 1/4 of all the manufacturing jobs in the city are located here and the majority of all the jobs are in Queens. And they dont care... what it does to the families in all those jobs, they simply want to realize the speculative values that theyve invested in over the years. And the former public officials, like Herb Sturz, are able to do the old in-and-out. The moral credentials of this project are not shining."

Discussing future scenarios for Hunters Point:

The institutions that are involved... are able to wait out the community opposition and will eventually get what they want. There is a 1983 Department of City Planni