Developer details Holmes Towers project

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Developer outlines plans for open space around new mixed-use tower on NYCHA property


  • Rendering of a 47-story tower to be built on the grounds of Holmes Towers, a public housing development off East 92nd Street. Courtesy of NYCHA

  • A rendering for proposed renovations to open space around the new 48-story tower to be built on the grounds of Holmes Towers. Rendering: Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects

The private developer set to build a controversial mixed-use tower on the site of what is now a playground between two Yorkville public housing buildings presented new details last week about plans for open space around the development.

Last spring, the New York City Housing Authority announced that Fetner Properties would build a 47-story mixed-use tower on the grounds of Holmes Towers, a public housing development at East 92nd Street and First Avenue. The new building, which will feature half market-rate and half affordable housing, will stand between the two existing 25-story Holmes Towers buildings.

The new building will be built on the footprint of what is a children’s playground. In its agreement with NYCHA, Fetner agreed to build new playgrounds for children and will add new seating areas and walkways to the open space around Holmes Towers.

The new building will also feature a new 18,000-square-foot community center to be administered by Asphalt Green, which will include a rooftop athletic field and an indoor basketball court.

Fetner hosted a series of public meetings at Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center Feb. 7 to outline plans for renovations to public space around the development and to solicit community input on the designs.

A proposed plan for the site showed new play areas adjacent to the mixed-use tower near the entrance to an existing community center in one of the Holmes Towers buildings, as well as a new playground and walking path near the current site of a small playground near the corner of East 92nd Street and First Avenue.

Other proposals, presented at the meeting by landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse, included a seating area for seniors and a fitness area with outdoor gym equipment. Some residents worried that a proposed community garden could attract rodents.

Despite the proposed changes, some residents of Holmes Towers and neighboring Stanley M. Isaacs Houses voiced concerns that new amenities would not make up for the space occupied by the new building. “We don’t have enough grounds as it is,” said Angela Ramirez, a 49-year resident of Holmes Towers.

The arrangement, controversial for many, to allow a private developer to build on public housing land is part of the NYCHA’s NextGeneration Neighborhoods program, in which the Housing Authority has partnered with private sector to fund repairs of NYCHA buildings and create new units of affordable housing.

The partnership between NYCHA and Fetner has faced resistance from some residents and elected officials, who have objected to the project on a variety of grounds, including that the affordable housing in the new building will be too expensive and that NYCHA is not benefitting enough from the program.

The new building will feature approximately 330 rental units, half of which will be affordable. Affordable apartments will be available to city residents making up to 60 percent of area median income, which is $40,080 for an individual and $57,240 for a family of four. Fetner will pay NYCHA $25 million for a 99-year lease of the site.

The conflict takes place against a backdrop of turmoil within NYCHA, which faces budget shortfalls, and severe infrastructure problems in its buildings, including heat outages in tens of thousands of its apartments, and a scandal over the authority’s failure to conduct required testing for lead contamination. In January, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a $82 million plan to upgrade boilers in NYCHA buildings.

Holmes Towers itself has about $35 million in capital needs. According to NYCHA, half of the revenue raised through the Fetner partnership will be committed to funding critical projects at Holmes Towers

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