By John McPhaul
The Puerto Rican Independence Party (PIP) leaders in the island Senate and House of Representatives, María de Lourdes Santiago Negrón and Denis Márquez Lebrón, respectively, denounced on Tuesday the alleged hoarding of dozens of properties in the San Juan community of Puerta de Tierra by individuals who are beneficiaries of Laws 20 and 22.
The PIP legislators filed a resolution in both chambers to investigate the effects of displacement in Puerta de Tierra and other communities.
“Given the transformation of the community of Puerta de Tierra, the concern has arisen among the residents of the state-owned buildings that their presence is incompatible with the designs of investors with such high purchasing power and that, therefore, eventually they too are to be displaced,” Santiago Negrón said at a press conference. “There are currently several apartments specially designed for people with mobility problems that have been closed for years. In the case of Parque San Agustín, residents are receiving relocation notices without an absolute guarantee that they will eventually return to what has been their home, in some cases for decades.”
“The entire displacement scheme continues to support the aspiration of certain sectors of a Puerto Rico without Puerto Ricans, and, therefore, the sponsorship by the state of this task concerns us all,” she added.
Márquez Lebrón warned that what “we are experiencing are foreseeable consequences of the privileged treatment of wealthy foreigners in conditions in which there is not even control.”
“The Legislative Assembly has the obligation to do everything in its power to confront these displacement schemes that, as we have witnessed, not only occur in high-cost communities, but also in poor sectors of Puerto Rico where they threaten to continue displacing,” he said.
Joining the PIP lawmakers were Laura Mía González, Jorge Luis González and Ángelo Arroyo, representing the Puerta de Tierra community.
The complaint arises from the concern shown by community residents, who have seen how at a rapid pace investors have been occupying dozens of properties, in some cases entire blocks. The effect has been the displacement of tenants who, given the aggressiveness and suddenness of the displacement, have had to leave that community as it has become impossible for them to find housing there.
According to the preliminary investigation carried out by Adrián González Costa, an adviser to Santiago Negrón, nine beneficiaries of Law 22 have acquired to date 30 buildings in the community, including the old Brumbaugh school and the building that once housed the offices of the newspaper El Vocero. Those transfers of ownership have been altering the identity of the oldest neighborhood on the island, González Costa noted, turning it into the headquarters of numerous units destined for short-term rental.