We're movin’ on up to the Upper East Side — just not as high as more affluent residents in the same building, a city official said.
NYCHA unveiled on Wednesday the first project in its controversial plan to build market-rate apartments on public land — a 47-story tower where tenants with more money would live on upper floors with amazing views. The lower-income residents would be relegated to lower floors.
The gleaming new behemoth is going to be jammed in between two 25-story buildings built in 1969 that make up NYCHA’s Holmes Towers.
Half the units will be market rate, half affordable, with most of the lower-income tenants on the lower floors and almost all of the wealthier residents on the upper floors, according to Councilman Benjamin Kallos.
“All the low-income people will be stuck in the shadows with the high-income people living above them,” said Kallos (D-Manhattan), who was briefed by NYCHA on the project. “The majority of the low-income units will be in the bottom 20 stories and they will have windows facing other NYCHA tenants. We will have effectively walled in the low-income tenants.”
A spokesman for Fetner Properties, the developer NYCHA picked to build the tower denied Kallos’ allegations.
“This will be a fifty-fifty building with affordable and market rate units evenly distributed throughout all floors of the building. To suggest otherwise is factually inaccurate and does not reflect the plan,” the spokesman said.
Hours after NYCHA revealed its plan, some Holmes Towers residents complained that NYCHA was placing their apartments in the shadows in the pursuit of cash.
“It’s disgusting,” said Lakeesha Taylor, 43, who’s lived her whole life in Holmes. “This is twice our size. You’re going to cast a shadow. There’s no hope of having sunlight.”
A Fetner spokesman said the firm was aware of the issue and deliberately rotated the building’s location to maximize sunlight for tenants.
For months residents of Holmes Towers fought the project, the first of what NYCHA hopes will be many market-rate towers built in the midst of housing projects to raise funds for the cash-strapped agency.
To mollify tenants, NYCHA held multiple meetings and promised to replace the deleted playground with more playground space elsewhere, plus an 18,000-square-foot recreation center open to all. NYCHA will also steer some of the funds generated toward repairs at Holmes Towers.
But tenants say it was a done deal from day one and that NYCHA ultimately ignored their input.
“Overall none of the residents were in agreement about having the building there,” said Milagros Velasquez, 41, Holmes Tenant Association’s vice president. Fetner will lease the land from NYCHA and build and manage the tower, collecting rent from market and affordable units. NYCHA hopes to raise $25 million from an upfront payment at closing.
Overall the authority wants to raise up to $600 million over 10 years leasing out land at up to 50 developments for more market-rate/affordable buildings.
To date it’s named only two other sites — Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn and La Guardia Houses on the Lower East Side. NYCHA is still talking with tenants about both plans.