FLASH FICTION
Lena Brings Affordable Housing to NYC
by William Lessard
Writer of the Month

On January 1, 2035, Lena Dunham announces ToHo (tOHHH-hOOO - Tunnel below Houston), New York's first subterranean housing community. The announcement by the former director, actor, author, mother, Operating Thetan and now mayor-elect of New York City comes at a crisis-moment when all New York's residential real estate has been turned into luxury high-rises, a situation that has forced the city's working classes to live in George Costanza-inspired improvised dwellings beneath their desks or commute from inner-tube villages at the southern tip of Staten Island.

Dunham herself has no experience with hardship, but her campaign slogan to get regular New Yorkers "Out from under the desk" had such resonance with voters that it propelled her to easy victory past former-rapper-turned-mogul-turned-reverse-mortgage-pitchman Sean Combs and Tiberius Trump, the illegitimate son of Donald, revealed during season 273 of The Apprentice.   

Reaction to Dunham's announcement is at first mixed. Core supporters who have been with her since her college YouTube videos went viral in the early 2000s applaud her for making good on her promise to put affordable housing at the top of her administration's agenda. Everyone else thinks Dunham has finally had a misstep in her long, flawlessly executed career. People who watched the 2025 reboot of the 2017 remake of Beneath the Planet of the Apes fear that ToHo will turn everyone into flesh-eating Underdwellers. Others wonder whether the community will conflict with the Liberal Arts graduates already living in abandoned subway stations to avoid college debt collectors. Others hold that allowing hardworking citizens to live below the same ground as the city's elite will "foster a pestilence of entitlement--maybe even revolt."

Even the New York Times, which has been writing about her every bodily function since her vegan sweet sixteen party more than thirty years prior, questions her decision. The newspaper of record and New York's #1 provider of quality mattresses delivers the damning referendum that "ToHo will bring the world of Fritz Lang's Metropolis to life, aloft the hydroponic fumes of a Rem Koolhaas bong-hit." 

Dunham remains undeterred. The newly minted politician channels the same fierce energy that enabled her to convince the world that Girls captured the millennial malaise of all young people, not the fortunate few with wealthy Midwestern parents bankrolling their shenanigans in gentrified, early twenty-first-century Brooklyn. In a series of late-night tweets from the rooftop hot tub of Gracie Mansion she outlines a three-point plan that will make ToHo a reality by the end of the year--with basic, 600 square-foot units starting at the low price of $14,000 per month.

Her tweets go ignored until Kim Kardashian retweets them. The First Lady of the United States uses a proprietary combination of emojis and minimalist text that brings instant, magical support from the media and general public. Only Fox News Carl's Jr. Halliburton, guided by the disembodied sentient head of Rupert Murdoch, attempts opposition, a decision that puts them at risk of running afoul of the Beyoncé people, who now dominate all social media as well as most of the U.S. Senate.  

Construction begins immediately. Human and robot workers toil day and night to transform a one-time drainage pipe at the corner of Houston and Broadway into a new kind of community, able to support the basic needs of thousands of New Yorkers. Clean air and water, sanitation and take-out--everything is taken into account. Dunham's team rises to the occasion. The former craft beer makers, poetry majors and artisanal beard oil manufacturers soon realize that managing a critical public works project isn't so different after all; it just involves more dirt and more yelling. 

On December 1, 2035, Mayor Lena Dunham unveils ToHo. The community is an immediate hit. The public and the media are as much enthralled by the tasteful, affordably priced subterranean apartments as they are by the news that retail will include a drycleaners and a Chinese restaurant, and that both Seamless and Fresh Direct will deliver via street-level pneumatic tubes.

Applications to live in ToHo arrive by the terabyte. By evening the excitement grows so intense that Dunham calls a special news conference. She assures the public that everyone who submitted an application will be considered. She also announces that ToHo is the first of many such projects, with work soon to commence on New Bushwick, an artistic community comprised of writers, artists, filmmakers and other creatives at the bottom of the East River, just off the coast of Williamsburg.