Tiffany Cabán (right) and Senator Jabari Brisport, and a render from the Hallets North project (Getty, Studio V, New York Senate Photo, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

It was the New York equivalent of Nixon in China when Tiffany Cabán agreed with a developer on a project for 1,400 apartments in her neighborhood of Queens.

The city council member’s undisputed far-left leadership credentials legitimized the deal, in which Boris Aronov agreed to permanently reserve 25% of units as affordable, build a public plaza on the water, rent space to community nonprofits for $1 a year, hire union labor and more.

This type of deal was once common in the city, despite being less affordable, but has fallen out of favor as rising rents, worsening income inequality and rapid gentrification have brought many progressives to think that the projects were the cause. This shift led to a painful stalemate, in which those most motivated to solve the housing crisis were fighting rather than advancing the solutions.

Then came Cabán’s bombshell on Tuesday. She described the site where the project will rise as “a sacrificed area of closed industry and vacant lots“, and said the culling of the project would likely usher in a last mile facility that “would pay our neighbors garbage wages for relentless, backbreaking labor that would clog the streets of our neighborhood with dangerous, highly polluting delivery vehicles. . ”

His decision is already reverberating on the progressive left.

On Thursday, another Socialist elected official, State Senator Jabari Brisport, posted a most remarkable tweet in which he linked to a study by the Furman Center showing that new housing does not increase a community’s rents.

In American politics today, it is breathtaking.

Such a public reversal almost never occurs in our ideological and warlike political arena. Not because people on the left or the right fear being attacked by their enemies, but because they fear being ostracized by their own camp.

Yes, officials sometimes change their position, but usually only for political reasons. In Brisport’s case, he actually researched the issue.

It’s no coincidence that his tweet came two days after Cabán was stunned. She has made it safer for other socialists and progressives to take a position that does not fully align with their ideology, which is that we will never have safe, affordable housing for everyone unless that the government does not build it.

For many New Yorkers, his choice would not seem brave but obvious. As she explained in a series of tweets, had she refused to vote yes on a rezoning, the developer would have built what is permitted on the site, likely an Amazon-style fulfillment center, self-storage facility and other structures that create few good jobs, increase truck traffic, and fail to provide public access to the waterfront.

Instead, she will get 350 very affordable units at no cost to the city, as they will effectively be subsidized by the market rate component. And as Brisport acknowledged, it won’t drive up rents for Astoria residents, as newcomers will move into the new units rather than outbid space for existing homes.

But forget the economy for now. They don’t matter unless they are politically useful to elected officials. As the right has demonstrated far more successfully than the socialists, facts are no match for myths and emotionally charged populist tropes.

People believe what they want to believe, especially if their leaders sell it to them. Anti-development forces, whether they are stopping affordable housing in the suburbs or market-priced housing in the cities, must be countered by leadership, not flattered.

To bolster his re-election bid, Donald Trump told commuters that apartment projects would bring crime to their communities and stripped them of federal support. But Cabán was not afraid to tell his people that a project at 75% of the market rate may be fine.

Richard Nixon was a staunch anti-Communist, so his deal with China was seen as credible, not a cop-out. The same goes for Cabán’s Astoria deal, which was workable because she didn’t headline the negotiations, unlike her colleagues Julie Won (who will decide the $2 billion QNS Innovation project), Marjorie Velázquez (deciding on two affordable projects in the Bronx) and Kristin Richardson Jordan (killer of Harlem’s 51% affordable One45).

Cabán assured her left-handed colleagues that she would continue to pursue their housing goals, even though she couldn’t get them into Hallets North, and she saw her approval as “harm reduction”. It’s a term applied to things like heroin injection centers for drug addicts – better than the alternative, but nothing to celebrate.

What is important, however, is that she let the project happen. The city will need many more to ease supply constraints that are driving up rents and house prices. If a socialist like Cabán can get a yes, so can the other 50 members of the Council. She forged a model for them and for the developers.