Friday, June 28, 2013

NYCHA Reveals Luxury High-Rises (Part 2 in a series)

The New York City Housing Authority, facing one of the most serious financial shortfalls in its history, is for the first time making a major push to lease open land on the grounds of its housing projects to developers to generate revenue. NYCHA wants to raise more than $50 million a year on long-term leases for parks, courtyards, parking lots, playgrounds and other property, seeking to address a $6 billion backlog of repairs. The city has revealed buildings that will more than double the size of the 15-story towers at Washington Houses. The luxury high-rises would be 35 and 41 stories tall.

But the plan has stirred deep concern among tenants who have been warily eying gentrification in one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets. The proposal is initially directed at eight housing projects in Manhattan near the waterfront and other prime areas where real estate values have jumped.

The authority has repeatedly told tenants that it has no plans to sell buildings themselves, and that no public housing tenant will be displaced by the new policy.

Still, in a city that teems with real estate anxieties, tenants harbor alarmed about the loss of open space, especially for children and the elderly.

While the plan has been adopted by the Bloomberg administration, approval by the federal government is still required. Furthermore, it is not clear whether developers will flock to lease land for market-rate buildings so close to public housing.

In his State of the City address last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said that the alternative would be to allow public housing buildings “to crumble” or to “knock them down.”

The plan is part of a broader effort to close the authority’s budget gaps that includes raising rents for some tenants and leasing retail space on the ground floor of some buildings.

The authority, landlord to more than 400,000 residents, has a backlog of about 350,000 repair orders. It also has a waiting list of 160,000 families. The authority’s chairman, John B. Rhea, whom Mr. Bloomberg appointed, said his agency needed to pursue innovative strategies to address both an operating deficit of $60 million in its current budget and $6 billion in capital needs.

“This is the single largest opportunity to preserve public housing units and our buildings,” Mr. Rhea said, referring to the proposal to lease the land.  Asked about the fears of tenants, he emphasized that “the plan is not a plan to privatize public housing.”

The authority is proposing 4,000 to 5,000 private apartments on 13 parcels of land at eight projects — about three million square feet in all. Of those apartments, 20 percent or up to 1,000, would be designated as affordable.

The eight projects, with a combined population of more than 25,000 people, are Alfred E. Smith, Baruch, Campos Plaza, Fiorello LaGuardia and Meltzer in Lower Manhattan; Carver and Washington on the Upper East Side; and Douglass on the Upper West Side.

New York has done more than most localities to preserve its public housing. In other cities, high-rise buildings, let alone parking lots, have been sold off or demolished.

Despite the authority’s assurances, the prospect of high-income neighbors at their doorsteps has many tenant associations worried, with many residents convinced that the plan was the first step in a process that would lead to their eviction.

In this series, TheElectricWeb takes a closer look at NYCHA's 'Land Lease Opportunities to Preserve Public Housing.' Today we direct our focus at two proposed development sites on Manhattan's Lower East Side: Fiorello LaGuardia Houses and Max Meltzer Tower.

LaGuardia Houses
Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia Houses on Manhattan's Lower East Side has nine buildings, 15 and 16-stories tall with 1,093 apartments housing some 2,596 residents. LaGuardia Houses has a $79 million unmet need for capital building improvements over the next 5 years.

Madison Street Development Site
   Site Area: 10,038 SF
   New Construction: 135,000 SF Residential

Rutgers Street Development Site
    Site Area: 8,371 SF
    New Construction: 120,000 SF Residential
    276 New Apartments

Present Use of Proposed Sites
    48 Parking Spaces
    Compactor Yard

Benefits for Residents
    Preference for new low-income apartments
    Emergency power generation for critical building systems
    Temporary and permanent job opportunities
    Enhanced security for development


Meltzer Tower 
Max Meltzer Tower on Manhattan's Lower East Side is a 20-story building exclusively for seniors with 230 apartments housing an estimated 246 residents. Meltzer Tower has a $10.5 million unmet need for capital building improvements over the next 5 years.

East 1st Street Development Site
    Site Area: 13,000 SF
    New Construction:
        121,500 SF Residential
          18,500 SF Commercial
              97 New Apartments

Present Use of Proposed Site
     Landscaped Courtyard
     Sitting area / play area

Benefits for Meltzer Tower Residents
     Redesigned Central Plaza
     New low-income apartments
     Emergency power for Tower
     Temporary job opportunities
     Permanent job opportunities
     Enhanced security systems