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Flushing residents want reasonable rent

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), Assemblywoman Ellen Young (D-Flushing) and state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) were on hand Jan. 24 to address questions from members of DC 37, one of the largest unions in the city. Each expressed a desire to increase the amount of affordable housing units in Flushing, where development has threatened many of the existing units in the area in recent years.Several of the more than 50 DC 37 members in attendance expressed concerns that they would soon be priced out of the area, where many of them have lived and raised families for decades."What about us? We are the working class. We are the retiring class," said Lola Walcott, a local resident. "Don't forget about the middle people that made it possible for you to be in the high positions you are today." Liu said he and the other elected officials were doing everything they could to remedy the problem, but also emphasized that a lack of cooperation on the federal level often hampers their efforts."We have to preserve the affordable housing units we have here in Flushing, but we have to go the extra step of actively creating new housing units as well," Liu said. "These kind of fights are never easy."Liu said he plans to announce a comprehensive plan to add new affordable housing units in Flushing within the next few months. Stavisky said she believes the election of Gov. Eliot Spitzer will help stoke some progress in affordable housing legislation on the state level.While several residents clamored for an end to large-scale development in the area in lieu of increases to affordable housing, Liu said the two concepts are not mutually exclusive. "We can't say we don't have enough affordable housing, have more people moving in and not have the ability to build," he said. "We have to grapple with that kind of reality."Natasha Winegar, rent regulation organizer for the tenants' rights group Tenants and Neighbors, said organizing tenant groups within individual apartment buildings is key to preserving affordable housing already in place. Winegar said without tenant organizations, landlords often face little resistance when they approach the city to raise rent levels. "You've got to organize as tenants," she said. "If you people don't raise hell, I've got to tell you, it's going to go on."Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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