Reprinted from ....
The Queens


July 19, 2000 
Queens, New York

 Housing (Agony)
To the Editor: 

As a person who has lived in my apartment for close to 25 years, I am heartsick and infuriated that I, like thousands of others, might lose the home I have because rents, already so out of control, are being raised again just so landlords can make profit—profit had in abundance already. According to the NYC Rent Guidelines Board’s own studies, "…landlords had reaped record income coupled with the smallest increase in expenses in nearly a decade," (New York Times, June 23, 2000). Now they have raised our rents another 4% for a one year lease and 6% for a two year lease. 

At the RGB’s public hearing I attended on June 15, person after person expressed what their apartments—their homes—meant to them. One woman moved people to tears when she said, "I have lived in my apartment most of my life. I got married there, raised my children there; my husband died there; but I, who want to stay there for the rest of my days, might not be able to because I won’t be able to afford the rent." 

As I heard people pouring their hearts out, and saw how their anguish was met with complacency and coldness by the Board, I thought how barbaric it is that anyone should have to worry whether they will have a roof over their heads or not. The cause of this painful and unjust situation is understood only by Aesthetic Realism, the philosophy founded in 1941 by Eli Siegel. 

Mr. Siegel, a great educator and historian, showed that our economy, the profit system, is based on contempt for people, seeing them in terms of how much profit can be squeezed from them. He described contempt as "the addition to self through the lessening of something else." Contempt is the cause of racism, child labor, and war. And it was contempt that had four senior citizens arrested and dragged from this public meeting for doing nothing more than expressing passionately the injustice they felt about these rent increases. 

In the international journal, The Right of Aesthetic Realism to BeKnown #1260 Ellen Reiss, the Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism writes: 

    The fundamental question about housing is…should a person make a profit from the need of another person to have a home, shelter, a place to live? Should our ability to have a home depend on whether we can provide a profit for somebody? Does Marissa, age 5, have the right to look from her bed at night at walls that are decently made, a floor that does not have rats running on it, a home she can feel is hers; does she have the right not to be thrown out onto the street, homeless and scared? Should anyone see Marissa’s need for this home as a means for making money for himself—as much money as possible? That is the underlying question. It has to be answered honestly before there can be any authentic reasoning about housing, rents and human lives in America.
Housing, having a home, like our whole economy, must be based on good will and ethics. It is emergent that people, including government officials ask and answer honestly this crucial question asked by Eli Siegel, "What does a person deserve by being alive?" When this happens the agony about housing in this city and around the country will end. 
 
Barbara Kestenbaum
New York
 
   


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