Perine Rabble Rouses NYC Housing

Event: 2011 Ratensky Lecture: Jerilyn Perine
Speaker: Jerilyn Perine — Executive Director, Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC)
Introductions: Mark Ginsberg, FAIA – Partner, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, CHCP President; Ron Shiffman, FAICP, Co-founder, Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development
Organizer: AIANY Housing Committee
Sponsor: Brooklyn Brewery

“I didn’t start out looking for trouble,” said Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing & Planning Council (CHPC), a non-profit research organization dedicated to improving housing and neighborhood conditions through the co-operative efforts of the public and private sectors. Perine is the former commissioner of the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) during the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations.

In addition to her 30 plus years as an urban planner, this native New Yorker has been personally touched by the plight of housing for the poor. As a child, she saw first-hand her once vibrant Brooklyn neighborhood take a downturn to become a place that could no longer support retail establishments, and subsequently its residents. Her first experience as an urban planner was when she was asked to “go see what’s left” in burned out places in the South Bronx, Harlem, Bushwick, and Bed-Stuy, after the blackout of 1977.

In his introduction, Ron Shiffman, FAICP, co-founder of the Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development, called Perine a “rabble rouser.” As HPD Commissioner during the Giuliani administration, she was instrumental in starting programs designed to return 50,000 units of tax-foreclosed residential property to local, private ownership and to prevent future cycles of abandonment. Later, she was the author of Mayor Bloomberg’s 2002 New Housing Marketplace Plan, aimed at strategizing ways to improve and increase affordable housing in the city.

As head of the CHPC, she is spearheading “Making Room,” a three-year research project, being done in collaboration with the Architectural League, to re-examine the prototypical housing unit for a 21st-century city. Findings are showing that non-traditional households are struggling to fit into existing housing stock. NYC is no longer a housing innovator, falling behind other cities around the world that are more responsive to housing demands. Key parts of our housing laws and codes contribute to the problem, currently acting as barriers to the development of new housing types.

To that end, the organization issued a call for ideas for new types of housing to serve a changing population. Deborah Gans, AIA, proposed a “barnacle” approach, where a single-family home could be added to for multi-generational housing. The team of Stan Allen, FAIA, and Rafi Segal designed an office that could gradually transform into a residence depending on the need. Mini-lofts for students, singles, and the elderly were proposed by Peter Gluck and Partners, and Jonathan Kirschenfeld presented an “S.R.O redux” housing type for multi-tenant bulidings. According to CHPC President Mark Ginsberg, FAIA, “Perine has crazy ideas, and makes them a reality.”