Maloney, Kallos, and Community Voices Heard Criticize NYCHA Development plan for Holmes Towers Playground

May 30, 2017
Press Release
Maloney and Kallos released a joint letter to NYCHA, signed by the elected representatives of Holmes Towers

NEW YORK—Today, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) and Councilmember Ben Kallos joined with Community Voices Heard, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblywoman Rebecca Seawright, and Assemblyman Dan Quart to express their deep concerns about the recently announced New York City Housing Authority development plan for the playground at Holmes Towers. Tenants at Holmes have expressed outrage over the proposal, which would cost them light, air, and a playground, while providing very little in return.

The plan would allow for the construction of a 47 story building with 350 apartments, half of which would be designated “affordable,” however the income thresholds for these apartments would be too high for the vast majority of public-housing eligible New Yorkers to afford. NYCHA would receive a mere $25 million for a 99 year lease of the land. Only $12.5 million of this sale would go directly to Holmes Towers for repairs, not nearly enough to cover the $37 million funding needs for Holmes reported by NYCHA.

“I am deeply disappointed by this development plan, which creates the impression that residents of Holmes are essentially being asked to bear the burden of fixing NYCHA’s financial difficulties because they happen to live in a desirable neighborhood,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “Not only does this deal not help residents of Holmes, it will actually hurt them. In one of the city’s most densely populated areas, open green space is critical. Every inch of New York City is valuable and in theory can be sold for a price. Parks and playground are vital to public health and civil society, and it is short-sighted to lease them to developers for a pittance that doesn’t even come close to addressing the financial hole.”

“Funding for NYCHA repairs should not come on the backs of NYCHA residents, especially children who will be losing their light, air, and playground for little in return,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. "This deal does not create enough affordable housing, and the affordable units being built are too expensive for NYCHA residents to move into."

"NYCHA is giving my children's childhood away by selling this land for $25 million when the deficit for Holmes Towers and NYCHA alone is $37 million and $17 billion respectively,” said Lakeesha Taylor, Community Voices Heard Holmes Towers Resident leader.  “ I won't be able to afford to live in this new building... it’s a bad deal for our families and only the developer will make a killing."

“When we use precious public land – especially NYCHA’s open space – for new development, it’s our moral obligation to make sure we are getting the best value for the community,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “For this kind of project, I think we should be striving for 100 percent long-term affordable housing.”

"We cannot allow tenants wishes to be ignored, and we must ensure that whatever plans are selected are not finalized in the dead of night” said New York State Senator Jose Serrano. “I am the sponsor of legislation in the State Senate that would require a ULURP for any type of development on NYCHA land, making sure there is a strong layer of community input. I am proud to stand with my colleagues in advocating for the community and fighting to ensure their voices are heard."

 “The decision to develop publicly owned space at Holmes Towers has our NYCHA residents up in arms,” said Assembly Member Robert J. Rodriguez.  “The proceeds from the lease are not sufficient to cover the $37 million in capital needed for Holmes development. The residents are making a huge sacrifice in order to help NYCHA address its financial issues, and this is unacceptable.”

“The tenants of Holmes Towers have been waiting far too long for critical repairs to their building. Because of this unfair deal, they will now instead bear the brunt of construction, light and noise pollution, and even less green space for their community," said Assembly Member Dan Quart. "I am disappointed that the ‘affordable’ apartment units are too expensive for the vast majority of eligible New Yorkers. We shouldn’t be making it even harder for low-income New Yorkers to call this city their home. There are still numerous outstanding questions from residents and officials pertaining to basic details of this deal. NYCHA’s plan must reflect comprehensive community engagement and address all outstanding concerns.”

Maloney and Kallos took the opportunity to release a joint letter to NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye, signed by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Senator Jose Serrano, Assemblyman Robert Rodriguez, and Assemblyman Dan Quart expressing their deep concern about the proposal, and posing significant questions about the announcement.  Full text of the letter is below:

 

May 30, 2017

 

Shola Olatoye

Chair

New York City Housing Authority

250 Broadway

New York, NY 10007

 

Dear Ms. Olatoye,

 

We are writing with respect to the disappointing announcement that NYCHA has selected development plan for the playground at Holmes Towers.  We have heard from tenants who are outraged by the proposal and concerned that they are losing light, air and their playground and receiving very little in return.   The proposal seems counter to NYCHA’s mission to provide affordable housing and uses city property for luxury housing.  Our constituents are especially unhappy about the fact that the income thresholds for the so-called affordable housing are much too high for the vast majority of public-housing eligible New Yorkers.   While we certainly need more middle income housing in our community, the fact that there is no place for low income New Yorkers at this so-called affordable development is troubling.  In addition, the price of $25 million for a 99 year lease seems low. 

 

In addition, the announcement leaves us with many questions:

 

  1. Playground. NYCHA is taking a playground from residents of Holmes Towers and residents have been promised the playground will be replaced elsewhere on the property. 
    1. What are dimensions of the old playground and the dimensions of the replacement playground?
    2. What equipment, seating and other amenities are being provided in the new playground? 
    3. When will the new playground be available to residents?  Will that be before or after the old playground is taken?  We understand that there had been representations that the old playground would not be taken until a replacement is ready. 
    4. Where will the new playground be located?  Published images show a small area in the back near the new building, but they also show the older playground.  It was unclear whether that older playground is also being upgraded.
  2. Proceeds. NYCHA reports that it will receive $25 million for the property of which $12.5 million will be allocated to Holmes Towers for repairs.  You have advised that the need for funding at Holmes is $37 million and that Holmes would not be receiving any capital funding at all absent these proceeds. It makes no sense that NYCHA would have allocated no capital funding to Holmes Towers given that it has $37 million in capital needs.  Clearly, NYCHA is making a choice to deny Holmes capital funding and is instead disposing of Holmes’s playground
    1. How is the transaction being structured?  Is NYCHA receiving the $25 million in one lump sum or will it be divided over time? 
    2. Will NYCHA be receiving any additional monies from the developer in the form of rent and/or taxes in outlying years? 
    3. Please advise how the proceeds from the ground lease will be spent.
    4. Since Holmes needs $37 million in capital improvements, and the long-term lease of Holmes property will not cover those needs, why is NYCHA choosing to divert some of the proceeds from the lease elsewhere?  100% of the proceeds from Holmes should be invested at Holmes and proceeds should go elsewhere only if they exceed the need.
    5. As you know, the Department of Sanitation (DSNY) is building a new truck ramp for its Marine Transfer Station along 92nd Street.  What has NYCHA done to coordinate with DOS?  How will residents of the new building access the building?  Is the developer aware of DOS’s plans for 92nd Street?
    6. When are those repairs scheduled to take place?
    7. Will the repairs be made immediately following receipt of the funds by NYCHA?
    8. Will NYCHA be allocating any other capital funds to Holmes in the next five years?
  3. Community Center. NYCHA advises that 1/3 of the slots for the community center will be allocated at no cost to residents of public housing. 
    1. What is the size of the community center?  In one part of the announcement NYCHA says 18,000 square feet and in another, 13,201 square feet plus a 4,500 square foot roof top playing field.
    2. What is the actual number of slots that will be available to public housing residents?  How many slots are there in total?
    3. What percentage of Holmes residents will the slots accommodate?
    4. Will preferences be given to residents of Holmes?
    5. What happens if the number of people who seek slots exceeds the available number of slots?  How will the slots be allocated?
    6. What outreach will NYCHA conduct to ensure that NYCHA residents know the opportunity is available to them?  How frequently will the outreach campaign be conducted?  Will new residents of Holmes be given an opportunity to sign up for a slot?  Will the outreach be done only at Holmes or will other NYCHA developments be included?  If so, which ones?
    7. What is the duration of a membership in the Asphalt Green program?  Will the membership expire?  How will people who are not accommodated with a slot initially eventually obtain a slot? Will someone have to give up a slot voluntarily or will the slots be reallocated periodically? 
    8. Is there any space in the community center that is available to tenants who are not given Asphalt Green slots?  If so, what would that space be used for?  If not, when the community center was discussed, were residents made aware that they would have to have a membership to use it?
    9. In addition to the basketball court, what programmatic space will be located at the community center?  What facilities/services will be offered at the community center?  How much of the space will be administrative versus programmatic?
  4. Building. NYCHA advises that Fetner Properties will be building a 47 story building with 350 apartments.
    1. In one place you indicate that the building will be 46 stories (or 466 feet) plus a mechanical floor.  How high is that mechanical floor?  There are buildings being built in the city in which the mechanical floor is the equivalent of ten stories tall.  What is the total height of the building?
    2. NYCHA says 50% of the apartments will be “affordable.”  How long will the affordable units remain affordable?
    3. What will the size of the affordable units be?  How many studios, 1 bedrooms, 2 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms?
    4. What will the size of the market rate units be?  How many studios, 1 bedrooms, 2 bedrooms, 3 bedrooms?
    5. Have studies been done regarding the impact of shadows on the NYCHA developments?
    6. There have been reports that affordable units will only be located on a portion of the floors.  If so, which floors will not have affordable units? 
    7. How many affordable units will be on each floor?  Will there be floors that will be entirely affordable?  Will those floors appear to be different from the market rate floors?
    8. Will the affordable units be smaller than the market rate units?
    9. Will the affordable units be limited to a particular side of the building?
    10. Will residents of the new building be able to see into the units of Holmes Towers?  If so, what protections will NYCHA offer to residents who are losing their privacy?

 

The announcement creates the distinct impression that residents of Holmes are giving up a lot and receiving very little in return for that huge sacrifice.   Residents of NYCHA facilities in desirable neighborhoods should not have to bear the burden of fixing NYCHA’s financial difficulties. 

 

Thank you in advance for your prompt response to these questions.  We look forward to receiving your answers.   In addition, we would like to meet with you to discuss the proposal further.  Congresswoman Maloney’s office will be reaching out to you to arrange a meeting. 

 

                                                Very truly yours,

 

CAROLYN B. MALONEY                  

Member of Congress  

 

 GALE A. BREWER                                                                         

 Manhattan Borough President                               

 

LIZ KRUEGER                                                                     JOSE M. SERRANO

State Senator                                                                             State Senator

 

      ROBERT J. RODRIGUEZ                                                            BEN KALLOS

      Member of Assembly                                                              City Council Member

 

      DAN QUART

      Member of Assembly

 

Issues: