The Jewish Voice UES Tenants Resist Plan to Build Housing on Public Playground by Ilana Siyance
The New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, has made elaborate plans to build new luxury housing on the Holmes Towers’ current playground in the Upper East Side. The NY Daily News has discovered that although the Housing Authority claims it has the approval of the current residents, residents say that is not the case. The tenant stakeholder committee wrote a letter of dissent towards the plans on September 1, addressed to NYCHA Chairwoman, Shola Olatoye. The committee wrote that the playground was designated “amid widespread resistance from the community to a development that would take away the park from the children.” The letter requests a halt on the plans and on the selection of a developer until residents can participate in finding an alternate site for the construction.
The tenants have gained the backing of Gale Brewer, the Manhattan Borough President and Ben Kallos, the City Councilman. Brewer said that the NYCHA’s promises have not been specific in telling residents what they stand to gain from the project.
The NYCHA formally requested proposals from developers for the project on June 30. They said that they have tenant support for their plan to build 300 units, half at market rate and half affordable, in the public site of the playground. NYCHA officials, see the plan as a great way to raise desperately needed funds. The Housing Authority says it will use revenue from the new leases to fix the currently deteriorating apartments. NYCHA says the playground will be replaced in a different, yet-to-be-named location. They insist there has been plenty of communication with tenants.
This is all part of the NYCHA’s plan, under Mayer De Blasio, to raise up to $600 million by leasing public land to developers to build thousands of new apartments. Holmes Towers and Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn, are the first two buildings to test this plan. This year the Housing Authority is short $98 million for its budget, and is expected to repair and upgrade 177,000 aging apartments.
“Engaging residents and the community has been at the core of the NextGen Neighborhoods program,” said NYCHA spokeswoman Jackie Primeau. “Earlier this year, NYCHA worked closely with Holmes residents to create a community vision to be included in the request for proposals. Resident input informed the character and location of new housing. We are reviewing the issues raised in the letter and will continue to make partnership central in this process.”