A group of older Section 8 housing residents are protesting a possible plan to have them downsize their apartments. Andrew Siff reports.
Drastic cuts from last year's budget showdown could force thousands of New York City public housing residents, many of them seniors, to move out of their homes.
The city says many people in Section 8 and NYCHA housing have larger apartments than they need, and it's eyeing a plan to charge higher rents for the bigger places to make up for some of the money that was lost in last year's federal budget cuts.
Tenants are anxious about the plan, especially elderly residents who may be shifted to studio apartments. Rita Popper has already downsized once, from a two-bedroom to a one-bedroom apartment, when her husband died. Now she's worried she'll have to shrink her life again into a studio.
"I can't remember ever being this angry," she said.
Gloria Morales said her memories were contained in her apartment. "Now they want me to move to a zero room?"
Eighty-nine-year-old Mary Carpenter says she can't imagine downsizing her precious mementos.
"Everything I have, pictures of my children and grandchildren, and I have to get rid of all that stuff and live in a dinky room? I think it's ridiculous."
A spokesman for the city said, "We are trying our best to keep all of our existing tenants housed. Given the magnitude of these cuts we’ve been forced to implement measures that will help stretch our remaining budget so that nobody loses their Section 8 benefit today."
The tenants group has hired civil rights attorney Norman Siegel to make their case.
"Even if they did save some extra money, it's inhumane," said Siegel. "You don't take the seniors in their eighties and nineties, and punish them by putting them in a studio."
Tenants at dozens of Section 8 buildings are planning a major rally this Saturday on 91st Street. Their motto: Grandma won't go.