Residents blasted the New York City Housing Authority last night for its plan to lease property for private development. Whether their concerns will have any impact on the final proposal remains to be seen.
NYCHA is required to hold a public hearing on its draft annual plan. A large number of tenants, including many from Lower East Side developments, came to the session at Pace University to speak out against the agency’s decision to build thousands of units of market-rate housing on property it owns throughout Manhattan. The plan would impact five public housing projects on the LES, including the Smith, Baruch, La Guardia, Campos Plaza Houses, as well as Meltzer Towers.
While local elected officials and some residents concede that NYCHA must look at its under-utilized property to deal with a critical funding crisis, they object to the way the housing authority has handled the process. City Council members Margaret Chin and Rosie Mendez, who both testified last night, have called for greater transparency and community engagement. They also disagree with NYCHA’s decision to set aside no more than 20% of the new apartments for affordable housing; they believe there’s an opportunity to build more units for low and middle income New Yorkers.
There was a side show last night — an appearance before the hearing by scandal-plagued mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. He was heckled and also received some cheers after describing a night he and other mayoral hopefuls spent at a public housing project in Harlem. Mostly, however, the hearing offered an opportunity for tenants to speak their mind.
Both inside and outside the hearing room, there was a strong presence from community activists, including Community Board 3 Chairperson Gigi Li and members of Good Old Lower East Side, the tenant advocacy organization.
NYCHA is on the verge of issuing Requests for proposals from developers for the sites. Its plan must be approved by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. You can read previous coverage of the controversial proposal here.