How ironically delicious is this: The UN is going to burn down the home that houses it by investigating to see if New York City's housing is so unaffordable "that it actually violates human rights." Despite--or more accurately--because of New York's vast and extensive array of housing laws backed by an extensive, invasive bureaucracy all of which are designed to make housing affordable, New York's rents are high--pay much, get little.
And so, as Mike Reicher of the NewYork Times explains, enter the UN. And not just the UN - the UN's Human Rights Council whose membership consists of such shining human rights role models where citizens enjoy affordable housing with lavish space, clean running water, working toilets and freedom of speech and religion such as Egypt, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Nicaragua to name but a few of the more laudatory examples.
The United Nations has assigned an official, - "a special rapporteur on the right to adequate housing," - to check the city's affordable housing. The rapporteur, Raquel Rolnik, is to tour the city for the next three days with housing advocates and city officials to "hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground," she said.
The United Nations Human Rights Council appoints a rapporteur, or independent experts, to investigate human rights conditions around the world. In the case of Ms. Rolnik, a professor of urban planning at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil, her "mission" is to tour New York City and six other places in the United States and to report back to the United Nations General Assembly about housing rights violations and advances.
After that, "We send off letters to governments to ask, ‘Is this true? What's going on?' and to please intervene," she said.
Housing advocates will be taking Ms. Rolnik to the Atlantic Yards site in Brooklyn to see the results of the government's use of eminent domain to seize property; to the New York City Housing Authority's Grant Houses in Harlem to see how public housing residents live; and to the Bronx to meet residents whose landlords are in foreclosure.
New York is a big city with hundreds of thousands of residences; special independent expert Ms. Rolnik is to see just a few in three days with "housing advocates" to "hear the voices of those who are suffering on the ground." This sure doesn't sound independent; it sounds as if she has already made up her mind and is seeking out a few vivid examples for her report. And in typical NY--or any other city--welfare fashion
At a town hall meeting last night in Morningside Heights, residents wept and shouted at Ms. Rolnik. They complained about deteriorating public housing, the lack of housing subsidies for AIDS patients, landlord harassment and many other issues, large and small.
Later, Ms. Rolnik hugged a resident herself.
Did she tell these complainers to move from public housing to private housing, including private apartments which abound in the city? Did she inquire why AIDS patients are entitled to housing subsidies from taxpayers? Did she ask if landlords harass why don't the tenants move? And do you ever harass the landlord by oh, not paying the rent or having uncontrollable children who vandalize? She did not.
After all she is a "rapporteur, or independent expert" from the UN. And from Brazil, which as we all know, was chosen for the 2016 Olympics because one of its main cities, Rio de Janeiro, is slum and crime free. Instead
She told them: "I am representing the right of adequate housing as a human right."
Human rights are represented in many ways. New York, for all its many flaws and all its many wonders, isn't Communist Russia or any other type of dictatorship typical of the many countries that make up the Human Rights Council. As residents of the US they don't need special permits to live in the city or to leave it to move elsewhere. If their residence isn't "affordable," whatever that means, they are free to pick up and move to a place that is. But they won't.
The whole problem is summarized by a complainer's statement.
"We have no one to help us," said Delores Earley, 73, who said her landlord has been trying to push her out of her Harlem rent-stabilized apartment for 20 years. "Somebody has got to know."
OK, Ms. Earley, we know. And please help yourself before the UN Human Rights Council decides to "help" you.
Oh, and for the rest of you, don't think you are safe wherever you are in this country.
After her tour of New York City, she will survey the housing situations in Chicago, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Washington, a South Dakota Indian reservation, and Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Her report to the General Assembly is planned for March.
Why bother? She--and we--know what she is going to discover, what she will conclude.