Unlike no president before, President Trump is a product of the powerful real estate industry which fueled his rise to power, and it is going to take an equally powerful fight from the people to strike his source of influence.
Trump’s fortune, which includes 1.7 billion in NYC real estate assets, made it possible for him to fuel his brand and business ventures, not to mention pour $66 million into his presidential campaign. And he will continue enriching his family’s real estate business in office. Trump’s son in law Jared Kushner remains a beneficiary of Kushner Cos—the family real estate business which has made over $7 billion in acquisitions over the past decade and boasts over 20,000 apartments in its portfolio, with a focus on “up and coming neighborhoods” like Astoria, Queens and Jersey City.
In the book, How to Kill a City Peter Moskowitz explains gentrification as a process of “reorienting the purpose of cities away from being spaces that provide for the poor and middle classes and toward spaces that generate capital for the rich,” and that is exactly what is happening under the Trump administration.
As president, Trump has started this process by appointing the wealthiest cabinet in U.S. history to date, and more recently, by releasing a preliminary budget with draconian funding cuts across the board for essential housing and social service programs.
The White House budget includes over $6 billion in cuts to the federal housing budget—eliminating the HOME program that provides housing for very low-income residents and reducing the already meager budget for public housing, senior housing and housing subsidies for people with disabilities. The budget also proposed over $4 billion in cuts to community service programs from the Department of Health and Human Services, and $2.4 billion from the Department of Transportation.
These cuts will pressure cities to run into the open arms of private corporations and luxury developers—like Trump and Kushner—to meet essential housing and transit needs. This is already playing out in New York City, where for example Council Member Ritchie Torres is calling public private partnership “the salvation of public housing” which faces a $17 billion deficit. On the transportation side, Mayor de Blasio has allied with luxury developers like Two Trees Development to push for a new Brooklyn Queens Connector trolley which would be financed by rising property values along the entire waterfront from Astoria to Sunset Park.
As Trump and our elected officials push forward with these pro-gentrification policies, it will be up to the people to unify and take back our power.
We don’t have to look too far back in history for lessons and inspiration. Against incredible odds, the Montgomery bus boycott- led by poor, working women of color- resulted in a Supreme Court decision against the state of Alabama. It was successful largely for two reasons: (1) thousands of ordinary people mobilized together around a common cause, putting fear into those in power; and (2) by refusing to ride buses which perpetuated a racist system, the people directly hurt the purse strings of the state (at the time, black Americans made up over 75% of the bus ridership).
We can use these same tactics to fight Trump, by uniting as neighbors and citizens against pro-gentrification policies which prioritize the wealthy over the most vulnerable and by taking actions which deliberately attack the source of his influence, the real estate industry.
Join the fight in West Queens by signing a petition to oppose three mega-developments that will benefit luxury real estate developers: the BQX Trolley, Sunnyside Yards, and the Long Island City Core Rezoning, and join over 100 neighbors on April 20th to tell Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer to say no to luxury development perpetuated by the likes of Donald Trump and Jared Kushner. Click here to RSVP and join our movement.