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Report: NYCHA Residents Hurt, Not Helped, By Gentrification

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The De Blasio administration is moving forward with plans to lease land within NYCHA public housing projects to private developers, with the goal of bringing affordable market-rate housing to so-called "underutilized" land on those developments. Just last month, it was announced that two housing projects—Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn, and Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side—will be the first to implement these changes. But a study commissioned by the city offers some not-so-shocking perspective on what those changes can mean for NYCHA residents: namely, that gentrification isn't helping them; in fact, it's hurting them, leading longtime residents to feel like "aliens" in their own neighborhoods, according to the New York Daily News, which reported the findings. Councilman Ritchie Torres had even stronger words about the report's findings, according to the NYDN: "Gentrification offers a lavish living to a privileged few while leaving NYCHA residents behind with nothing more than a remnant of their former purchasing power."

The study, called "The Effects of Neighborhood Change on NYCHA Residents," was conducted by Maryland consulting firm Abt Associates, and its findings came from interviewing residents at three NYCHA developments: Sedgwick Houses in the Bronx, Queensbridge Houses Queens, and Elliott-Chelsea Houses in Manhattan. The firm sent researchers out to take walking tours of those neighborhoods and talk to residents of the housing projects, and hired NYCHA residents to help interpret their findings. And despite the disparities in location and the stages of gentrification in each neighborhood, the findings were largely the same:

The study found that in the past, NYCHA developments used to be mostly located in areas with persistent poverty. Due to real estate trends most now sit in either "increasing income" or "high income" neighborhoods. Those are neighborhoods where the average income is greater than the city's median income of $51,865. Tenants at the three developments made clear that in general, NYCHA tenants usually don't get the jobs at the new upscale stores that spring up around them.

To make things worse, they find the mom-and-pop restaurants, retailers and Laundromats they'd patronized for years are soon replaced by upscale versions they can't afford.

For those who've been following the saga of the De Blasio administration's NextGeneration plan, these findings will come as no surprise: Last month, several outlets (including the Daily News) talked with NYCHA residents, who didn't seem particularly happy about the gentrification happening around them, even worrying that they'll be "forced out" of their homes. Abt's study came to a similar conclusion: In the three neighborhoods they visited, NYCHA residents by and large don't feel as though the changes are benefitting them. Here's what Queensbridge residents, for example, had to say:

Residents there "felt that these improvements were meant to benefit new condo owners, often called the "runners and bikers" in the neighborhood, "rather than NYCHA residents." They noted "disparities" between the quality of housing and groceries nearest NYCHA versus the condos farther south. They "felt that condo residents — and not NYCHA residents — are the impetus for and primary beneficiaries of the changes." Yikes.

For its part, NYCHA defended its NextGeneration plan through its spokesperson, Aja Worthy-Davis:

"By building both affordable and mixed-income housing, we will protect NYCHA housing, expand affordable housing options for everyday New Yorkers, and bring small businesses and services like supermarkets and restaurants closer to NYCHA developments," she said. "We will in turn use this growth to connect NYCHA residents to new employment opportunities." · EXCLUSIVE: NYCHA residents see little benefit from gentrification in their neighborhoods, report shows [NYDN]
· NYCHA Residents Afraid of Being 'Forced Out' By New Housing [Curbed]
· NYCHA Targets Boerum Hill, Upper East Side for Development [Curbed]
· All NYCHA Coverage [Curbed]