Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney blasted a recent proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration to build affordable apartments on playground space at the Holmes Towers public housing complex on E. 93rd Street.
In a bid to increase the affordable housing stock in Manhattan, the administration is proposing to sell or enter into longterm leases with developers to build 350-400 apartments on public space at Holmes, 175-200 of which would be affordable. According to the proposal, the agency would replace and move the current playground to construct one mixed-income housing building, but the agency’s statement did not say where the replacement playground would go.
NYCHA is also proposing a similar plan at Wyckoff Gardens in Brooklyn.
Shola Olatoye, chair and CEO of NYCHA, said the proposal is part of the agency’s strategy to, “put our financial house in order and create safe, clean and more connected communities.”
Maloney, however, suggested the proposal is more fiscally motivated than the agency let on.
“I am deeply troubled that [the NYC Housing Authority] is considering taking light, air and playground space from residents of Holmes Towers in order to balance its budget,” she said, before referencing the East 91st Street marine transfer station, which is scheduled to be completed next year. “These are the same NYCHA housing residents who will be living with an influx of hundreds of garbage trucks a day when the city’s new garbage transfer station opens down the street from them. It’s a real double whammy.”
The agency released a statement last week that said since May, NYCHA has been rolling out key pieces of “NextGen NYCHA,” which they’re billing as a 10-year strategic plan to address the agency’s “chronic operating deficit” and $17 billion in unmet capital needs.
In a letter to Olatoye, Maloney called on NYCHA to reconsider the proposal altogether and raised a series of 14 questions around the plan, including concerns on how much money would be reinvested in Holmes.
“While I understand NYCHA has financial difficulties, it is hard to believe that this development would generate sufficient income to make it worthwhile to take away a playground from public housing residents,” said Maloney.
NYCHA said they’ll be rolling out an outreach program that will collect feedback as residents learn more about the program, and “its benefits and trade-offs as they help inform the scope of the project.” The agency said residents will also provide input on the way revenue from the new mixed-income housing is reinvested in their development’s existing buildings for things like major capital repairs, such as roofs, new kitchens or updated bathrooms.
“As we start this comprehensive, inclusive process and engagement moves forward, we cannot forget our purpose and why we are doing this - we must save NYCHA today and for tomorrow; we can no longer kick the can further down the road to address our finances, resident concerns and pressing infrastructure needs,” said Olatoye.