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January 19, 2005

Actorsí Equity Association Testimony Hudson Yards ULURP/Inclusionary Housing City Council Public Hearing

December 13, 2004

Good afternoon.

My name is Carol Waaser and Iím the Eastern Regional Director of Actorsí Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in live theatre. I speak on behalf of the 15,000 members of Actorsí Equity who live in New York City.

We, along with our sister unions, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, are deeply interested in the Hudson Yards Project in so far as it opens up an enormous opportunity for this city to provide affordable housing across a broad range of incomes. The two areas adjoining the Project district, Clinton and Chelsea, are both diverse, mixed income neighborhoods. Clinton, in particular, is known for its broad diversity.

The Hudson Yards area also interacts with the theatre district and the area containing major entertainment industry job locations and support services. Theatre and entertainment are a very important part of the New York City economy and they depend on the proximity of the services and talent pool in this geographic area. Without this close-knit fabric in mid-town Manhattan, the industry will become less efficient and more expensive. We therefore believe it is essential for the rezoning of the Hudson Yards Project area to be carefully tailored to produce the most units possible under the Inclusionary Housing Bonus Program; that the Inclusionary Housing Bonus Program be structured so as to cover a broad range of incomes; and that the guidelines for eligibility are flexible enough to account for people with episodic employment and cyclical earnings patterns. Only in this way will entertainment industry professionals be able to meet eligibility and continue to live on the west side of Manhattan. Only in this way will the entertainment industry continue to flourish in Midtown.

While we recognize and appreciate that the City Planning Commission did much to address the affordable housing issue before handing the proposal on to the City Council, we believe there is more that can and must be done here. We ask that the City Council restructure the income limits under the Inclusionary Housing Bonus Program as follows:

  1. Raise the income eligibility cap for all inclusionary housing under the Hudson Yards Inclusionary Housing Bonus Program to 165% of Area Median Income (AMI) and structure the program so that 20% of units be available to people with earnings up to 80% of AMI, 50% of the units be available to people with earnings up to 125% of AMI, and 30% of the units be available to people with earnings up to 165% of AMI.
  2. Request changes in the Inclusionary Housing Bonus Program eligibility guidelines to allow for income averaging over a three-year lookback for qualification within the upper income caps in order to account for the cyclical income patterns of entertainment industry professionals.

We also ask the City Council to increase permanent affordable housing opportunities by requiring that no less than 30% of all housing units constructed in the Hudson Yards development area be affordable as described above.

In addition, as a part of this plan, we are seeking an ongoing commitment that City sites be made available for the development of a broad range of affordable housing.

And finally, we urge the City Council to put in place strong anti-harassment provisions within the development area, as well as demolition restrictions that will prevent the wholesale destruction of the residential areas encompassed by the project.

We thank the Council for its serious consideration of these requests. The goal for all of us is to have a thriving, vibrant, culturally and economically diverse neighborhood that supports an industry so vital to New York City.

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