Early reports of market-rate towers coming to NYCHA sites on the Lower East Side and Chelsea

Posted On Thu, April 25, 2019 By

Posted On Thu, April 25, 2019 By In affordable housing, Policy

Image via Wiki Commons

During a meeting on Monday, NYCHA officials presented tenants of the LaGuardia Houses with a plan to bring more market-rate apartments to the Lower East Side complex. The revised proposal would see a 35- to 45-story tower rise, with up to 75 percent market-rate apartments, THE CITY reported. Felicia Cruickshank, president of LaGuardia’s Tenant Association, said that in addition to Extell’s One Manhattan Square and the three waterfront skyscrapers in Two Bridges, this tower is “just going to gentrify the whole community and change what the Lower East Side has always been.” Reports have also shown that officials are in the early planning stages of a similar mixed-income project at the Fulton Houses complex in Chelsea, leaving residents to fear displacement and being forgotten in the development process.

LaGuardia is one of the complexes identified in the city’s NextGeneration initiative, which aims to raise up to $600 million for public housing repairs by allowing developers to build on NYCHA sites. In the four years since it was announced, no projects have broken ground, and just last week, a tower that had been in the works since 2005 at a NYCHA site in Hell’s Kitchen was shelved.

The New York Times reported today that the city is considering tearing down two buildings at the Fulton Houses complex in Chelsea to pave way for three mixed-income private developments. One new residential tower would be built on an empty parking lot in the complex, after which residents from 72 units at two of the development’s smaller buildings would be moved into that tower where they would continue to pay subsidized rents. The two vacant buildings would be demolished, and replaced with two mixed-income towers.

The money generated from the mixed-income towers would go toward repairing all the buildings of the Fulton Houses—which consist of 944 apartments with an average monthly rent of $660, compared to the neighborhood’s $3,462 median—and the neighboring Chelsea-Elliott housing development. The two projects need $344 million in repairs, roughly $166,000 per unit.

“This is a conceptual framework of what we think drives the most money to ensure that we are rehabilitating the apartments that are at Fulton,” Kathryn Garcia, the interim chairwoman at NYCHA, said, emphasizing that the plan was still in its infancy. “Every Fulton resident will receive either a brand-new or completely renovated apartment, and we look forward to starting our resident engagement process soon,” she added.

NYCHA would retain ownership of the land, but lease it to the developer. Residents are protected under a federal policy that caps their rent to 30 percent of their income, but the development buzz around the Hudson Yards-adjacent complex has already been fostering fear that things could change. “I truly believe in my heart they will bring the rent up,” said Amelia Martinez, 60, who has lived in the Fulton Houses for four years. “I don’t trust a private landlord. NYCHA should manage our buildings.”

Representative Jerrold Nadler, State Senator Brad Hoylman, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Gale Brewer, wrote a letter to the agency asking for transparency in the process of deciding what will happen at the Fulton Houses complex and advocating for resident input.

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