We have a few more details concerning the overnight shooting at the Smith Houses that left a 30-year-old man dead.
For our regular feature spotlighting the people who live and work on the Lower East Side, we talked with Jonathan Gardenhire, a student who serves as the vice president of the Smith Houses Residents Association.
In spite of strong objections from residents, the New York City Housing Authority is undeterred in its quest to lease public housing property for private development. The agency yesterday posted on its website “pre-request for proposal” documents and scheduled another round of “engagement meetings” with impacted communities. The revenue-generating proposal would develop sites at five Lower East Side projects. The real “request for proposals” (RFP) is expected to be released next month.
The documents released show that one site, at the Smith Houses on South Street, would accommodate two 500-foot buildings (that’s 50 stories). We’ll have more on the plans later. In the meantime, you can have a look for yourself. Click through for a look at the scheduled meetings on the LES.
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.
For the past three years, monthly gas outages have been a way of life at the Alfred E. Smith Houses, a 12-building complex along the East River. Water damage from a leaky roof has made life miserable for residents of the large public housing complex. Aixa Torres, Smith’s tenant president, was heartened several months ago when the New York City Housing Authority finally signaled it would begin making desperately needed repairs. But then something changed, Torres said, and the projects were put on terminal hold. That “something,” she asserts, was the tenant association’s decision to oppose NYCHA’s plan to build luxury housing on a parking lot and athletic field at Smith. This morning, tenants, their attorneys and community activists held a news conference to discuss a lawsuit they have filed against the housing authority demanding that repairs be made without delay.
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.
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.
It’s a holiday tradition the residents of the Alfred E. Smith Houses could definitely do without. Once again people who live in the public housing complex near the Brooklyn Bridge are having to made do without gas service. It’s at least the fifth substantial outage in the past three years. The problems have a way of occurring during the holidays, when the weather turns cold and people are cooking more family meals than normal.
This time, we’re told 32 apartments at 182 South Street are impacted. The gas has been out most of this month. Service is not expected to be restored until a week from Thursday or Friday. As in the past, NYCHA has handed out hot plates so tenants can at least use their kitchens.
One week ago, residents of the Smith Houses were displaced when a fire broke out in an eighth floor apartment at 388 Pearl Street. In the days that followed, people living in the large public housing development have contended with persistent gas outages. 159 apartments are without service.
Investigators have concluded an unattended candle burning an eighth floor apartment caused yesterday morning’s fire at 388 Pearl. This morning the New York Post has home video showing the heroic rescue of a toddler by William Febow, his uncle. The fire, at the Alfred E. Smith Houses, sent five people to the hospital with minor injuries.
Febow jumped from a window onto a Fire Department ladder, and then waited for the boy’s mother to pass him down, where firefighters met both of them. Febow told the Post, “Justine handed me the baby from the window. We just needed to get him to safety. I was scared for my life but I did what I had to do it to protect my family.”
Here’s more on this morning’s fire at the Alfred E. Smith Houses. According to NY1, Six people were taken to area hospitals. Flames erupted around 7:30 in an apartment on the 8th floor at 388 Pearl Street.
The New York Post tells the story of 22-year old Willis Febow, who escaped out a window with his nephew, a toddler, clinging to his neck. Febow began making his way down a ladder; firefighters met him halfway. “I was told that my daughter, Justine, and my grandson, Emory, were hanging outside of their window and I nearly had a heart attack,” the boy’s grandmother, Judith Hernandez, told the Post. “All I can say is thank you Lord, thank you for keeping them safe.”
Another resident, 29-year old Elvis Diaz, said he was awakened by his sister. “She was yelling fire, fire and I looked out my window and there was smoke coming out of my building and I freaked out,” he recounted.
NY1 reported that one man tried to jump to safety without assistance. Battalion Chief Ron Schmutzler said, “The man was actually on the window sill. He had bed sheets tied together, ready to slide down the bed sheets. We had the ladder companies and the engine companies going up the interior of the building trying to make a push down the hallway.”
Investigators have not determined the cause of the fire.
At least three people were rescued from the Alfred E. Smith Houses this morning, after a fire broke out in either a sixth or eighth floor apartment (there are conflicting reports). Firefighters were called to the scene, at 388 Pearl Street, around 7:45 a.m. According to WCBS, one of those rescued had to crawl through a window and climb down a Fire Department ladder. The New York Red Cross responded, and provided assistance to four residents. We hear that State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver also has staff at Smith to offer translation services. There are no reports of life threatening injuries.
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