Between 30-40 New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) sites across the city are being considered for the agency's infill program adding mixed-income developments to underused NYCHA sites, the agency's CEO, Shola Olatoye announced at a heated City Council hearing last night. At the moment, this particular program is moving forward at two sites - the Holmes Towers at 403 East 93rd Street on the Upper East Side, and at Wyckoff Gardens at 185 Nevins Street in Boerum Hill. But what the meeting revealed last night was the fact that while residents at both developments will have input on what the final new development might look like, the project will move forward regardless of community opposition.
"The longer we defer major capital repairs, the root cause of many building issues, the greater we can expect our operational maintenance and repair needs to be," Olatoye told those assembled at the meeting. "Really tough problems are rarely solved by popular solutions. We must shift the mindset that there will be an easy, quick, painless fix. We must move beyond the distrust and anger that have built over the years to find a place of mutual understanding that NYCHA really does want to solve its problems. We are not sitting on the sidelines accepting the status quo. We will preserve the city's public housing stock and leave no stone unturned in our pursuit of funding."
The City Council's Committee on Public Housing organized a meeting at the Holmes Towers Tuesday night to address concerns residents had about the NYCHA program. The infill program is officially known as NextGen Neighborhoods, and its part of a larger 10-year strategic plan to build more units and bring more money into the agency to carry out repairs at its existing developments across the city.
The NextGen Neighborhoods plan also known as the 50/50 plan specifically looks to build mixed-income developments on underused sites at NYCHA properties such as parking lots and playgrounds. NYCHA is currently hoping to develop 2-4 sites per year over the course of the 10-year strategic plan, and Holmes and Wyckoff are the first. The agency estimates that the 50/50 plan will bring between $300 million to $600 million in revenues for the agency, which will then be used to address the most vital needs at NYCHA facilities like repairing roofs and addressing sewage problems.
A typical new building at a NYCHA site will have 50 percent market rate units, and the other half will be affordable. Of these affordable units, 25 percent will be set aside for NYCHA residents to apply to. And the affordable units will be open to those who make about 60 percent of the area median income, which NYCHA estimated to be $46,600 for a family of three.
At the Holmes Towers site, NYCHA wants to construct a building with 350-400 units, and at Wyckoff Gardens the agency wants to bring 550-650 units in an as yet undetermined number of new buildings, according to Politico.
NYCHA is currently hosting community meetings and visioning sessions at both Holmes and Wyckoff and will continue to do so for the next few months to seek ideas for the new development. It's only after those meetings that an RFP will be issued to developers to propose projects on the site. Furthermore NYCHA said, once the project has been finalized, residents will have input in where they'd like to see the funds generated from the new development go towards in terms of repairs.
The major concern for residents however, that City Councilman Ritchie Torres, who heads the public housing committee, made clear to NYCHA officials was that residents have been mostly cut out of the process yes they can provide opinions, but the development is moving forward anyway.
Residents who spoke at the meeting stressed that the agency should find alternative means for funding repairs at existing NYCHA buildings.
"How can the government find $4 billion to fund a Penn Station renovation but find no money for public housing?" Darnell Brown, a resident at Holmes Towers, pointedly asked the officials.
"I'm opposed," is all Sandra Peres, the tenant association president for Holmes Towers had to say on the matter.
For NYCHA, this new program is looking to address $17 billion in unmet capital needs across the existing 328 developments the agency owns across the city. This includes leaky roofs, unreliable heating systems, and broken elevators among others. Next Generation NYCHA is just one of the ways the agency is looking to address the shortfall. Developments at Holmes and Wyckoff Gardens will also have to be approved by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) before they move forward.
Here are some images from last night's meeting: