A few days ago, the city announced two new programs to create affordable housing on small, underutilized sites. The Department of Housing Preservation and Development put out a “Request for Qualifications” to developers interested in participating in the “New Infill Home Ownership Program” and the “Neighborhood Construction Program.”
A press release stated that the Lower East Side is one of the neighborhoods in which the development sites are located. While the application made available to prospective developers indicated there are two parcels on the LES being primed for affordable housing, the city did not reveal where they are located. As a result, many local activists, including some of those who run local community gardens, are playing a guessing game about what the de Blasio administration has in mind.
The mayor has vowed to create or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing during the next decade. The new programs are part of that plan, although they won’t make much of a dent in the overall goal. The homeownership initiative, for example, envisions projects encompassing 15 apartments or less. Last night, City Council member Rosie Mendez spoke to members of Community Board 3 about the mysterious plan. She noted that community garden groups are especially anxious because their temporary permits are up for renewal in January. City officials have indicated that any garden parcels that aren’t permanently protected could potentially become development sites. Very few Lower East Side gardens enjoy permanent protection. “I think we need to be worried,” said Mendez. She added that city agencies have not made an effort to consult local communities about their plans. “I fear the mayor’s affordable housing plan is not going to be such an easy road for us. I think everything is up for grabs.”
Earlier this fall, CB3 urged the city to protect the Siempre Verde Garden on Stanton Street. A developer wants to build market rate housing (and a few affordable units) on two garden plots as well as a privately owned parcel. This week, a city spokesperson said no final decision has been made about the fate of the garden.
If you’d like to read more about the new city programs, here’s the press release.