Margarita Lopez Loses One NYCHA Job But Gets Another

Former NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez lost her job – but now she has another high profile position with the housing authority.

Judge Orders Immediate Repairs at Smith Houses

Residents of the Smith Houses and community activists held a news conference last month.

Residents of the Smith Houses and community activists held a news conference last month.

Last month, residents of the Alfred E. Smith Houses announced they were suing the New York City Housing Authority for failing to make repairs at the 12-building complex alongside the East River.  Last week, a housing court judge rejected NYCHA’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit and ordered the agency to begin clearing maintenance requests immediately.  NYCHA officials said they would get started this week.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of more than 300 tenants by lawyers from the Urban Justice Center’s Community Development Project and New York Lawyers for the Public Interest.  Those attorneys say the ruling could be “precedent-setting,” with potential implications for other public housing developments across the city.   The Daily News has more details here.

 

Smith Tenant Association Boycotting Tonight’s NYCHA Meeting

NYCHA map shows development sites at the Smith Houses.

NYCHA map shows development sites at the Smith Houses.

In the past 24 hours, the New York City Housing Authority finally posted details on its web site concerning a plan to lease some of its property for private development.  Tonight, officials will be briefing residents of the Smith Houses about the plan but many tenants will not be participating.

This is because they’re boycotting the meeting, set to take place at P.S. 126 (80 Catherine Street), at 6:30 p.m.  Why?   A press release we received from BerlinRosen Public Relations states: “The Tenants’ Association Exec. Committee asked NYCHA to reschedule the meeting in order to give residents at least a 10-day notice and opportunity to review the proposals, but NYCHA is deciding to go ahead anyway. The Authority is making it seem as though their plan is a done-deal and residents just have to put up with it.”   The Urban Justice Center is advocating on behalf of the public housing tenants, many of whom have obtained legal representation.

NYCHA Details Development Plan Impacting LaGuardia Houses

A meeting was held last night at the Rutgers Houses.

A meeting was held last night at the Rutgers Houses.

Last night, the New York City Housing Authority took its road show to another housing development on the Lower East Side.  NYCHA Commissioner Margarita Lopez, a longtime LES resident, has been tasked with the responsibility of explaining the cash-strapped agency’s plan to lease property for market rate development in order to close a huge funding gap.  The latest information session was held in the gym of the Rutgers housing development, but was mostly intended for residents of the neighboring LaGuardia Houses.

NYCHA intends to offer 99 year leases to private developers at eight Manhattan housing projects, five of them on the Lower East Side (Smith, Baruch, LaGuardia, Campos Plaza Houses, plus Meltzer Towers).  During the presentation, housing authority officials detailed the plan at LaGuardia and attempted to tamp down rumors about the controversial proposal.

NYCHA’s Margarita Lopez: Luxury Housing Plan is Not a Done Deal

Residents of the Smith Houses packed a gymnasium on Madison Street last night for a tense “emergency tenant meeting” to discuss the New York City Housing Authority’s plan to lease some of its property for luxury development.  They were greeted by NYCHA board member Margarita Lopez, who struggled to tamp down what she called “rumors” concerning the proposal.

A week ago, the Daily News reported that the cash-strapped agency would release an RFP (request for proposals) next month seeking developers for parking lots, playgrounds and other spaces at eight of its developments, five of them on the Lower East Side.  The new construction, the News reported, would consist of 80% market rate housing and 20% affordable housing.  Around $50 million in expected annual revenues would be plowed back into the public housing developments, which require billions in repairs and upgrades.  On the LES, Smith, as well as the La Guardia Houses, the Baruch Houses, Meltzer (senior housing) and Campos Plaza (on East 12th Street) would be impacted.  Many of the details in the newspaper report matched up with very general briefings given to members of the City Council and tenant leaders in the past month.

NYCHA Plans Luxury Housing Alongside Five LES Public Housing Projects

Photo via Alfred E. Smith Houses Facebook page.

The next big housing battle on the Lower East Side is upon us.  In the past month, officials with the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) have been briefing elected officials and some tenant leaders about plans to lease a huge amount of property alongside public housing to private developers for market-rate apartments and retail.    Last night, at a meeting of Community Board 3’s land use committee, activists began to mobilize against the proposal, one tenant leader saying in regards to NYCHA, “if you want a war you’ve got a war.”

The cash-strapped agency has been talking about selling or leasing some of its property for years.  A 2008 report from the Manhattan Borough President found that the housing authority has more than 30 million square feet of unused property rights (including parking lots, playgrounds and open space).  In September, NYCHA Chairman John Rhea signaled that he was preparing to move ahead with the leasing plan as a way of narrowing the authority’s annual $60 million budget gap.

Velazquez Demands NYCHA Release “Negative” Report

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez is requesting NYCHA publish a report that highlights its flaws.

After City Council member Rosie Mendez spent Tuesday afternoon defending the New York City Housing Authority from recent negative press, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez is calling for the release of a report that could bring more critical scrutiny to the authority.

In a letter she sent to NYCHA Chairman John Rhea this morning and then circulated to press, Velazquez requested that a report by the Boston Consulting Group on NYCHA operations be made public. The authority commissioned the report at a cost of $10 million, with the stated intention of using the findings to make better use of its limited funding. Velazquez, who represents much of the Lower East Side and Chinatown, asserted that the report could help inform city and even national housing policy, but is being withheld from public view because of embarrassing information it contains about NYCHA’s financial mismanagement.

Mendez Defends NYCHA, Says Security Cameras Are Coming Soon

At City Hall yesterday, City Council member Rosie Mendez, along with fellow lawmakers and public housing residents, blasted the New York Daily News for a series of articles critical of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).

In the past, many of those gathered before TV cameras and microphones have themselves been highly critical of NYCHA red tape and incompetence. But during the midday news conference, Mendez and others defended the agency, saying Chairman John Rhea had made major strides during his short tenure.  They said there’s real concern that continued bad press will jeopardize federal funding for public housing, which has been decimated in the past decade.

Tenants at Smith Houses Once Again Without Gas Service

Alfred E. Smith Houses.

For the fourth time in two years, residents of the Smith Houses are having to deal with a long-term gas outage.  This week, the neighborhood’s elected officials sent a letter to the New York City Housing Authority, calling the situation “simply unacceptable.”

Residents of 26 Madison Street have been told they’ll be without service for up to two months. The plea to NYCHA head John Rhea came from Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, City Councilmember Margaret Chin, State Senator Daniel Squadron and Borough President Scott Stringer.  “There is obviously a chronic problem with gas outages at Smith Houses and it is essential that the New York City Housing Authority come up with a plan to address this issue in the long term,” they asserted.

Followup: Gas Outages in Public Housing Developments

Gas Lines are back on at the Smith Houses.

Last week we told you about the uphill battle by some public housing residents to get their gas turned back on after outages lasting up to four months. On Wednesday, tenants were assured by officials of New York’s  Housing Authority that repairs would be made within a few days.

LES Gas Outages: Cooking on a Hot Plate for Four Months

Some apartments in the Smith Houses have been without gas since January.

This week Lower East Side residents vented their frustration at city housing officials, who struggled to explain why apartments in three NYCHA developments have been without gas for up to four months.  The tenants came to a meeting Wednesday night organized by State Senator Daniel Squadron. They peppered managers of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) and the Department of Buildings with questions about the handling of the gas outages, which have impacted more than 50 apartments in three complexes.