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NEW YORK CITY-Approximately 1,300 attendees were on hand Tuesday to support affordable housing, where Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the event’s keynote speaker, emphasized the need to protect the American Dream in the city and its surrounding areas. The New York Housing Conference and National Housing Conference 34th Annual Awards Luncheon held at the Hilton New York honored those who continue to create and preserve affordable housing in New York and nationwide.

“We made a promise to bring passion back to state government,” Spitzer said, during his speech, which followed the luncheon’s awards ceremony. “First we were replacing stagnation with action, and now we are moving forward,” he said, adding that the logical next step for the State will be to increase funding. Spitzer noted that, although he could not detail budget plans for next year as far as affordable housing goes until his budget proposal next month, he strongly believes that affordable housing is a priority. He did note however that it will be a tough sell in Albany with the $4.3-billion budget gap, but addressing funding for affordable housing it is a central concern.

Some of the action Spitzer spoke of, which summarizes the progress made over the past year, include: the government addressing the subprime crisis by acting now to help those who are already in trouble by working with mortgage services regarding modifications; and by supporting those New Yorkers at risk by allocating $2 million to home ownership counseling agencies for further tools and resources.

Spitzer noted that this year, the state is on track to finance 29 projects. One project he noted that could have never happened in the past is the 118-unit 2271 Washington Ave. Apartments in the Bronx, which have 30 units set aside for the mentally disabled. “Ensuring that every New Yorker has a safe place to live is important and we on the state level provide some of the funding, but you New Yorkers are the ones that make it happen,” Spitzer said. “We must never forget that we have to remain a place that anyone can achieve the American dream by working together.”

Many of those Spitzer spoke about were in attendance at the luncheon including the banking, real estate and community development industries, which together recognized some of the leaders involved in the effort to create housing for New York’s low-, moderate-, and middle-income families. The recipients of this year’s awards were: Richard Richman of the Richman Group Affordable Housing Corp., who received the Housing Developer Award; James Simmons III of Apollo Real Estate Advisors LP, who received the Community Investment Award; Dominic Carter of NY1 News, who received the Special Recognition Award; and John Reilly of Fordham Bedford Housing Corp., who received the Community Service Award. The Corporate Sponsor for this year’s event was JP Morgan Chase, which was recognized for its leadership in community development and affordable housing. William M. Daley, vice chairman and head of corporate social responsibility accepted the award on the bank’s behalf.

“This year’s luncheon has taken on a new significance with the Nov. 9 passing of Clara Fox, [who launched the luncheon event 34 years ago] who touched the lives of many as a staunch advocate for the affordable housing community,” noted John Kelly, NYHC co-chair and Carol Lamberg, executive director of Settlement Housing Fund. Nearly every speaker and honoree spoke of Fox’s unwavering leadership of NYHC and about the standards that she set while at the helm of the organization, which will continue to shape the people and organizations she served.

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