DNAinfo.com NYCHA Tenants 'Trapped in Shadows of Wealthy' Under City Plan, Electeds Say by Shaye Weaver
YORKVILLE — Residents of an East 92nd Street public housing complex furious over a proposal to build a high-rise on their playground space rallied against the plan Tuesday — demanding that the New York City Housing Authority either scrap the project or make the tower less intrusive and more affordable.
NYCHA plans to construct the 47-story, mixed-income building in the Holmes Towers complex that would include 300 units, half of which will be market-rate and the other half affordable.
But advocates and elected officials at the rally said the $25 million NYCHA stands to make under the city's new NextGen program, which is meant to raise money for its existing developments across the city, represents "a drop in the bucket" compared to the agency's $17 billion needed for capital repairs across the city.
"I don't think the NYCHA residents should be trapped in the shadows of the wealthy," Councilman Ben Kallos said, amid shouts of "save our playground!" from attendees.
"We've been fighting from the start, but NYCHA don't care," added Alicia Harris, whose daughter and 4-year-old grandson live at the development. "When you talk about 45 stories, where are the kids gonna play? It will take away space for the kids."
Earlier this month, the city released renderings of the new, off-white tower slated to rise among the existing red-brick buildings of Holmes Towers.
The plan also calls for a new 18,000-square-foot recreation and community center run by Asphalt Green, as well as new playgrounds.
The project's affordable units will be designated for city residents earning less than $41,000 for an individual and $52,000 for a family of three. NYCHA residents will receive preference for a quarter of those units.
But the project and its impacts don't sit well with critics of the plan, who want it to undergo a thorough vetting process.
"Manhattan should not be the cash cow for NYCHA," Borough President Gale Brewer said at the rally. "We should be going through ULURP [Uniform Land Use Review Procedure] with this proposal as is our right to have real community input."
Some officials brought up other issues they have with the project, including its affordability and the possibility that the building would literally tower over current residents.
Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney argued that despite the plan for 50 percent affordable housing, with a quarter of the units set aside for NYCHA residents, the $25,000 annual median income of those who currently live at Holmes Towers would mean most would not be able to afford a new unit.
"It's not affordable to the people who live in NYCHA," she said. "This is not going to help the residents who live here."
Others said they would not accept the plan until it was 100 percent affordable for NYCHA residents.
In a statement, NYCHA said money raised from the market-rate housing would pay for "vital repairs and frontline services" for the city's public housing stock.
The agency also said protestors had picked the wrong target, noting that President Donald Trump has proposed federal budget cuts that would gut the agency.
"Efforts should be spent fighting Trump’s devastating budget proposal, not on stopping a program that will bring in $25 million for the Housing Authority, including $12.5 million for repairs at Holmes Towers,” the agency said.
The building's developer, Fetner Properties, said the company is "committed to providing new playgrounds, recreational space, good jobs and affordable housing for NYCHA families and the Yorkville community," and was ready to hear feedback.
Despite a year and a half of exhaustive meetings between the agency, the developer and residents, critics say the city hasn't released enough information about its future plans for the property. They question whether more NYCHA land will be used for development and say the city has completely ignored residents' opposition to date.
"I attended these meetings and we weren't allowed to say 'no,'" Holmes resident and Community Voices Heard member Lakesha Taylor said. "We were given choices with no answers. What is this really for? You're not even fulfilling your deficit. We're getting darkness, we're getting dust...for a building [that] will be 50/50."
Roughly $40 million in repairs are needed at Holmes Towers alone, officials said.
"The city is losing money on this deal," Kallos said, explaining that the city will only rake in $25 million from the development, while it plans to give Fetner $13 million toward the building's construction and lose millions of dollars in unpaid taxes as part of the building's 99-year lease.