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Thread: Public Housing in NYC

  1. #46
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Housing Authority Has Elaborate Rescue Plan for 21 Projects

    By MANNY FERNANDEZ

    For years, New York City’s public housing agency has been grappling with a crucial financial problem — though it relies on money from the federal government to operate and repair its complexes, 21 of its 336 developments receive zero federal subsidies.

    The 21 complexes are a peculiarity of the city’s public housing — orphans, in a sense, that are being cared for by the rest of the system. Because they were built by the city or the state, the federal government provides no financing for them. The city and the state have not been much help either: Neither regularly contributes operating money to keep the 21 sites afloat. Since 1998, the New York City Housing Authority has diverted nearly $1 billion from its federally subsidized, federally built complexes to its unsubsidized, city-built and state-built developments.

    But now, the agency has come up with a complicated plan to “federalize” the 21 developments and put the country’s biggest public housing authority on a more solid financial footing. The plan calls for the 21 sites to be added to the federal public housing roster through a little-known provision in the economic stimulus package Congress passed earlier this year. The agency seeks to federalize the city and state developments by renovating them using stimulus funds as well as private money, in what it is calling a “mixed-finance modernization.”

    A number of advocates for tenants and elected officials, including Senator Charles E. Schumer and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn, have expressed their overall support for the plan.

    “The sad fact is that the city and state abandoned these buildings and their tenants on Nycha’s doorstep and ever since, the agency has had to carry the load alone, which led to stresses, deficits and delayed repairs throughout the whole public housing system,” Mr. Schumer said in a statement. He added, “This is exactly what the tens of thousands of tenants in these buildings deserve and need this holiday season.”

    But others say they are concerned about aspects of the plan, which for the first time in the 75-year history of the authority allows a private bank to have an ownership stake in dozens of New York City public housing buildings. “I’m supporting it, but I’m cautious,” said Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, the chairwoman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Public Housing.

    “That is what all the tenants are trying to wrap their heads around: ‘Is this the possibility of privatization down the road?’”

    The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees public housing authorities, has to approve the plan. The city housing authority is now on a tight schedule: The transaction has to be completed by March 17, 2010. A public hearing is scheduled for Thursday evening at the Manhattan Center, 311 West 34th Street in Manhattan.

    The provision in the stimulus package that the authority has seized on involves the Faircloth Amendment, which limits the number of new, federally financed units a public housing authority can build. HUD has said the language of the provision lifts the restriction if stimulus money is used. The housing authority has essentially used that opening to come up with a way to repurchase the units at the 21 sites and put them in the federal inventory.

    Under the plan, the authority would lease the land at the 21 complexes to a private entity — a newly created limited partnership or limited liability company. The authority would be the general partner of the private entity, which would also include a nonprofit partner and an investment bank. The private entity would rehab the buildings through a financing arrangement that includes stimulus money and the issuing of tax-exempt bonds. It would also seek federal low-income housing tax credits, which are allocated by New York State.

    The authority will continue to manage the complexes and own the land, but the private entity would own the buildings. Agency officials said the plan allows them to start receiving federal operating and capital monies for the 21 sites, to preserve the tenancy of existing residents and to improve the buildings.

    In a videotaped statement shown last week to tenants at the 21 complexes, the agency’s chairman, John B. Rhea, said: “As residents in this process, your day-to-day life will not change — all of your rights, services and protections as public housing residents will remain the same.” He said the 21 sites would remain public housing under the plan, and added that the only way the authority was allowed to federalize the sites was by using a mix of private and public money.

    The Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, called the plan “a creative approach” to the agency’s budget shortfalls, but said he had concerns “regarding the transparency” of the new entity.

    Victor Bach, a senior housing policy analyst for the Community Service Society, a nonprofit anti-poverty group, said that he understood concerns about the involvement of the private sector in public housing, but that the plan as described to him by the agency did not relinquish the authority’s oversight of the buildings. “The thing that relieves some of the anxiety is that the housing authority would be the general partner,” Mr. Bach said. “It would not be selling any air rights for development.”

    Mr. Bach said he was told by agency officials that the bank would not receive any profits from the rent streams and the federal operating subsidies for the 21 sites. The incentive for the bank is instead likely to come from proceeds on the bonds and tax benefits, as well as giving the bank a way to earn credits under the federal Community Reinvestment Act, which requires lenders to support low-income neighborhoods, Mr. Bach and other housing experts said.

    Sheila Stainback, a spokeswoman for the housing authority, said that the primary economic interest of the investor member, or bank, is “the tax credits generated by its investment in this transaction.”

    The 21 unsubsidized sites contribute to the financial woes of the authority, which estimates that its operating budget deficit in fiscal 2010 will reach $137 million. Authority officials said they spend nearly $100 million annually to maintain the 21 complexes; in his statement, Mr. Rhea said diverting federal money to the unsubsidized sites leads to understaffing, inadequate maintenance and delayed capital improvements throughout the public housing system. All of the roughly 20,000 apartments at the 21 complexes must be renovated to meet federal standards under the new plan, the agency said.

    Six of the 21 developments were built by the city, and 15 were built by the state. For example, Castle Hill Houses in the Bronx is a state development completed in 1960 at a cost of $28 million, and is home to about 5,000 tenants in 2,000 apartments. Bay View in Brooklyn, built by the city and completed in 1956, has 1,600 apartments and 3,500 residents.

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...r-21-projects/

  2. #47
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    New York City Plans to Topple Public Housing Towers

    By MANNY FERNANDEZ



    Philadelphia tore down 21. Chicago leveled 79. Baltimore took down 21 as well, and when 6 of them came down in one day in 1995, it threw a parade.

    Since the 1990s, public housing high-rise buildings have come tumbling down by the dozens across the country as cities replace them with smaller suburban-style homes that do not carry the stigma of looming urban despair and poverty.

    New York City has long been the great exception, and red-brick towers still dominate the skyline from the Lower East Side to East Harlem, from Mott Haven, in the Bronx, to Bushwick, Brooklyn. But now, for the first time in its 75-year history, the New York City Housing Authority wants to knock down an entire high-rise complex, Prospect Plaza in Brooklyn — a move that has surprised and angered a number of former tenants and advocates for low-income housing.

    In the past decade, the authority has chosen to renovate rather than tear down its aging housing stock, often at great expense. Its decision to demolish Prospect Plaza was not the result of a sweeping policy shift, but of the failure of a renovation project that became bogged down in years of administrative, financial and legal problems.

    Prospect Plaza — three 12- to 15-story towers in Brownsville — is plagued by neither despair nor poverty: It has been vacant since 2003, when the last tenants were moved out with the promise they could return to refurbished apartments.

    One recent evening, the sole occupant of Prospect Plaza — many of the windows on the upper floors have been removed, giving the buildings a hollowed-out look — was a security guard in a ground-floor office. The window frames and doorways on each tower’s bottom three floors were sealed shut with cinderblocks or metal gates. The flagpole was flagless, but an old wooden sign remained: “Welcome to Prospect Plaza.”

    Agency officials say they want to tear down the 35-year-old buildings and erect new apartments in their place. Officials initially planned to leave the towers standing and reconfigure the apartments, by eliminating some units to create bigger living rooms and bathrooms, but those plans were scrapped by the authority’s new leadership because demolition made better financial sense.

    Ilene Popkin, the agency’s assistant deputy general manager for development, said it would cost $481,000 to renovate each of the 269 apartments. Demolishing the structures and building 361 new units would cost $381,700 per unit. Ms. Popkin and other officials said the three buildings had deteriorated from vandalism and exposure to the elements, and were out of context with the neighborhood. The new apartments — including public and private housing, not only for the poor but also for low- and moderate-income families — are likely to be built in low-rise buildings.

    Prospect Plaza originally included four towers housing 1,200 people. One was torn down in 2005; the plan was to use that space for a new community center, shops and additional housing. But today, the building’s old footprint is just a fenced-off lot.

    That building was the first high-rise the authority demolished. In 2007, the agency also knocked down a number of two-story buildings as part of the redevelopment of the Markham Gardens complex on Staten Island.

    The authority has completed the first two phases of its Prospect Plaza redevelopment plan, involving not the actual housing project itself but 37 two-family houses and 150 rental units in four-story town-house-style buildings that were constructed on nearby lots formerly owned by the city.

    Several former residents of Prospect Plaza and groups that represent public housing tenants said they did not support the demolition, in part, because it was unclear to them that the authority intended to replace the old units with the same number of new public housing units. Agency officials have not decided how many of the new apartments will be public housing, but they said that former residents and community leaders would help make that determination.

    “We are committed to being shoulder to shoulder with you,” the agency’s new general manager, Michael Kelly, told former tenants and others at a community meeting last week a few blocks from the vacant buildings.

    The cost of demolishing the towers and building the new apartments is estimated at $138 million. Part of the financing will come from a $21.4 million federal grant the authority was awarded in 1999 to revitalize Prospect Plaza, of which about $17 million remains. At the meeting, Mr. Kelly said it was too early to say where the rest of the financing would come from. Agency documents describe the project as “mixed finance,” meaning it will be paid for with public and private dollars, with some of the money coming from the sale of federal low-income housing tax credits.

    Michaels Development Company, a real estate company based in New Jersey, was hired in 2003 to rehabilitate the three towers, but the agency terminated its agreement with Michaels in 2007. In a letter to Representative Yvette D. Clarke’s office in December, the agency said that Michaels “was unable to develop a financially feasible plan for rehabilitation.”

    A spokeswoman for Michaels disputed that description. “We had a viable plan to fully finance the deal,” said the spokeswoman, Laura Ochipinti Zaner.

    Michaels sued the agency in April 2008 for breach of contract, accusing it of mismanaging the project and of failing to compensate the company for $5.6 million in predevelopment and other costs. The project stalled in part because it took the agency three years to finish the development agreement and because of turnover at the authority, according to the lawsuit.

    In court documents, the agency denied many of the company’s assertions, stating that Michaels breached the agreement by failing to obtain commitments from lenders willing to invest in the project. An agency spokeswoman said Michaels was paid about $4 million from the federal grant for architectural, engineering and environmental review work.

    Even as the three towers sit vacant on Prospect Place near Saratoga Avenue, they continue to be a costly expense for the cash-strapped authority, which has paid a security firm $25,000 a month since 2005 to keep watch over the buildings. The demolition, which must be approved by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, is planned for this fall, with construction scheduled to start in 2012.

    Preference for the new public housing units will go to former residents, many of whom were relocated to other public housing in Brooklyn.

    At the community meeting, Priscilla Davis, 40, a former tenant, said she would not believe anything the authority told her until she was handed the keys to her new apartment. Milton Bolton, 50, a former resident and the president of the still-intact Prospect Plaza Tenants Association, held up a thick draft of a 1998 application for the federal grant and said, “It’s hard to have trust.” More than three dozen tenants have died since 2003.

    Ms. Popkin and Mr. Kelly acknowledged “bumps along the road” for the project in the past, but they stressed their desire to rebuild the neighborhood. “I understand that folks here are frustrated,” Ms. Popkin said. “There is a new management at Nycha. We have a commitment to these towers. This is a top priority to move forward.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/06/ny...l?ref=nyregion

  3. #48
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    About damm time!

  4. #49
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    The Human Rights of Home

    By NATASHA LENNARD

    Human rights violations often seem the preserve of distant lands with despotic leaders and destitute peoples. But on Friday, federal officials preparing a report for the United Nations heard directly from New York residents and advocates about the abuse of rights in the city. And soon the U.N. will hear, too.

    Friday’s fact-finding session, at Columbia University Law School and in nearby apartment buildings, was in preparation for a report the State Department has to submit to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council.

    Speakers described a city rife with racial barriers to affordable housing, drug-filled homeless shelters and landlords who evict arbitrarily without warning.

    “Through this, and other consultations around the country, we’ve received information we can use to provide the U.N. and the international community with an honest, frank assessment of human rights in America – both the good and the bad,” said Chris Camponovo, the State Department representative helping prepare the report.

    Mr. Camponovo added that although the United States is in compliance with all its U.N. treaty obligations, the consultation would address human rights abuses in a broader economic, social and cultural sense than simply international, legal obligations. “We should be able to be an example,” he said.

    The report to the United Nations, due later this year, is a requirement of the organization’s new “Universal Periodic Review” program for member nations.

    On Friday, advocates for education, housing, health, employment and criminal justice took to the podium to highlight problems facing their sectors and ways the government might address them. There was a heavy focus on housing rights.

    “Housing rights violations are some of the most visible human rights violations in our country,” said Eric Tars, director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. “The international community has increasingly taken note of America’s failure to uphold the right to housing,” he added.

    Speakers highlighted the proliferation of vacant property in New York, which they said could be used to house the homeless.

    “Housing is a human right, and that right is not being recognized,” said Rob Robinson of Picture the Homeless.

    United Nations fact-finders have been all over the city of late – in October, the U.N.’s Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing visited a fair-housing group in Brooklyn.

    After Friday’s conference-room session, Mr. Robinson led the State Department representatives onto the streets of Harlem.

    They walked to the nearby Grant public-housing complex, near West 125th Street, where, up 20 floors and along a dingy, beige-tiled corridor, they met Jackson Marizan, 29. Mr. Marizan, a currently unemployed father of two, showed the delegation around his two-bedroom apartment.

    “I’ve been complaining about mold for over a year,” he said, pointing to his bathroom ceiling, speckled with spores. “Both my little girls have asthma, and it’s just not safe to live like this.”

    The government officials completed the New York leg of their tour on Saturday with a visit to the site of the former Albee Square mall in Brooklyn, which was demolished in 2004 and is now home to a stalled redevelopment project called City Point.

    On the site visit, Mr. Camponovo and his colleagues heard how, despite the public investment of more than $20 million, there have been no pledges of either living wages or jobs for displaced workers.

    “The truly valuable aspect of this process is the engagement with civil society,” Mr. Camponovo said. “We can only present the U.N. with a 20-page report, but we hope we can provide a snapshot of the concerns and issues that confront people in this country, as well as highlighting the things we are doing well.”

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...ights-of-home/

  5. #50

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    Quote Originally Posted by Merry View Post
    Agency officials say they want to tear down the 35-year-old buildings and erect new apartments in their place. Officials initially planned to leave the towers standing and reconfigure the apartments, by eliminating some units to create bigger living rooms and bathrooms, but those plans were scrapped by the authority’s new leadership because demolition made better financial sense.
    35 years old! Younger than many folks on this forum. And vacant for much of that time. What could be more preposterously wasteful? The concept stank from Day One; many folks in 1975 were already aware of the bankruptcy of "Towers in a Park." Will the mistake be repeated?

    Ms. Popkin and other officials said the three buildings had deteriorated from vandalism and exposure to the elements, and were out of context with the neighborhood. The new apartments — including public and private housing, not only for the poor but also for low- and moderate-income families — are likely to be built in low-rise buildings.
    These buildings were ALWAYS OUT OF CONTEXT, but not just because they weren't low-rise; their context was the Moon. Barring an unlikely miracle of enlightenment, their mechanically-repetitive and over-zoned replacements will prove themselves to be equally out of context when their newness wears off. The new buzzwords are as clueless as Towers in a Park. Why can’t there be a mix of low and high rise? What’s called for here is a variety of small-footprint streetwall buildings with ground-floor commercial. Like any likable urban place. Like any place that folks are proud to call their neighborhood.

    Prospect Plaza originally included four towers housing 1,200 people. One was torn down in 2005; the plan was to use that space for a new community center, shops and additional housing. But today, the building’s old footprint is just a fenced-off lot.
    Pshaw. Hopeless from the start, and hopeless now if any aspect of this thinking is allowed to permeate the new project. Community Center? What is that? The community center is the street. Always has been, always will be. What use does any successful place have for a “community center”? Where is the community center in Chelsea at the High Line? In the West Village? On the Upper West Side?

    Community Center: a place for the victimized to go so they can feel the full measure of their victimization. Crochet lessons, anyone? Angry meetings?

    The Community Center is part of the victimization: a sop in place of what is really needed by the community --which is to be knitted back into the larger community of humanity, so they are no longer apart (segregated) visually, symbolically and socially by where they live. They need to be re-integrated into the Global community. That means no community centers in which to lick wounds.

    The cost of demolishing the towers and building the new apartments is estimated at $138 million.
    WTF ???

    Part of the financing will come from a $21.4 million federal grant the authority was awarded in 1999 to revitalize Prospect Plaza, of which about $17 million remains.
    And $4.4m went where? Administration? I’ve worked with community groups, and I pretty much know what that means.

    Michaels Development Company, a real estate company based in New Jersey, was hired in 2003 to rehabilitate the three towers, but the agency terminated its agreement with Michaels in 2007. In a letter to Representative Yvette D. Clarke’s office in December, the agency said that Michaels “was unable to develop a financially feasible plan for rehabilitation.”

    A spokeswoman for Michaels disputed that description. “We had a viable plan to fully finance the deal,” said the spokeswoman, Laura Ochipinti Zaner… The project stalled in part because it took the agency three years to finish the development agreement and because of turnover at the authority, according to the lawsuit.
    A familiar story.

  6. #51

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    Thank you, Ablarc, for that. I felt my head beginning to pop with rage at the idiocy of that article, and your reply was a much-needed release valve.

    Does the UN really have nothing better to do than to investigate why New York City doesn't give anyone who wants it a free apartment? Really? Seriously? I've lived in a few cities around the world, and I've had patches of being without work or money. Sure, I would've loved a *free* apartment, but I would've sooner expected my very own unicorn to come flying down from Jupiter. Instead I did what people naturally do: looked harder for a cheaper place to live than I would've liked and, failing that, moved to a place that had a more favorable cheap apartments-to-available jobs ratio.

    The only thing I'd add is to comment on the "living wages" question. New York's minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. That's more than 2/3 of Russians make. Now, Russia's no model for economic development, but $7.25 per hour is high enough to absolutely preclude production of any good that can be made anywhere else on earth. I'd suggest that if the UN is so concerned about living wages it look to any place on earth that is still able to be cost-competitive enough to produce goods -- we have plenty of junk out there, so there must be a few places that can make it.

    And if $7.25 per hour (which, again is the bare minimum; I'm guessing that $9 or $12 per hour would be disagreeable for the UN as well, so it'd be nice to know what wage is "living") isn't enough to get you a Park Ave apartment, there's a whole big state with lots of cheap, surplus housing and where a $7.25 hourly wage is guaranteed throughout. Of course, when you're making $180K per year as a UN bureaucrat from a low-income country that you can barely relate to, that $7.25 probably seems like a criminal pittance.

  7. #52
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    Some points well made. But ...

    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post

    ... Community Center? What is that? The community center is the street. Always has been, always will be. What use does any successful place have for a “community center”? Where is the community center in Chelsea at the High Line? In the West Village? On the Upper West Side?
    Near the High Line: The very successful and useful Hudson Guild. Serves all sorts of purposes from a terrific theater to class rooms & meeting rooms. And not limited to use by those who live in the surrounding "public housing."

    West Village: The Tony Dapolito Recreation Center on 7th Avenue South / Clarkson, which includes not only interior spaces serving a number of uses but also a swimming pool and sports facilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by ablarc View Post

    Community Center: a place for the victimized to go so they can feel the full measure of their victimization. Crochet lessons, anyone? Angry meetings?
    Sure, that plus LOTS more. Something for everyone, from the angry and unheard (See: "Community Board Meetings") to those who need an alternative to (1) their probably overcrowded apartment or (2) sitting home alone.

    Just because facilities aren't to our individual liking doesn't mean they don't serve a purpose for others.

  8. #53

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    ^ I checked out both your links.

    Sorry, but you make my point for me.



    (Looks to me like the few remaining disenfranchised parading their powerlessness.)



    Empowerment is the product of self-sufficiency. In fact, it's the very definition of it.

  9. #54
    Disgruntled Optimist lofter1's Avatar
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    You're a very hard nut down in that suburban bliss.

    A quick glance at a website and 70 years of service are flushed down the toilet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by stewartrama View Post
    ablarc, you come off really ignorant and like you have no idea what you are talking about with that statement.

    For instance, the Hudson Guild community center, located just a block away from the highline has vegetable gardens, a farm in new jersey that members of the center can visit, senior programs, and programs for children, usually for free.
    I stand sternly corrected.

    Quote Originally Posted by stewartrama View Post
    Community Centers are about ... not sheltering the inhabitants and keeping them in a local bubble.
    What you say is exactly what I meant by "globalized" --hooked into the larger world, not isolated.

    Quote Originally Posted by stewartrama View Post
    Your theory that any given local community should be "globalized" seems ridiculous.
    We're on exactly the same page here, so if one of us is ridiculous, so is the other. Sorry if I chose a word you don't like or if I wrote unclearly --though clarity is also important in reading.

  11. #56
    Chief Antagonist Ninjahedge's Avatar
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    ABL, I think the point here is that they provide an important piece of comfort and an alternative to being out in the street WITHOUT isolating them entirely from the community or the world at large.

    When used properly, they provide a good meeting place for people to interact (from passive things like Vollyball and Childrens Sports, to instruction on things like Microsoft Office, etc...)


    The key is to make sure that they ARE a part of the community. In a lot of areas that is usually fulfilled by things like the Church, but Churches are limited in who they can reach, and who will reach for them.

    A community center, WHEN USED PROPERLY, can do a lot of good.

  12. #57
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    City’s Public Housing Agency Gets $305 Million in Aid

    By CARA BUCKLEY

    The city’s largest landlord has secured desperately needed financing that could help steer it out of the red.

    Under a labyrinthine deal that federal and state lawmakers and city officials raced to complete in less than six months, the landlord, the New York City Housing Authority, will receive about $230 million for rehabilitating 21 developments that have received no subsidies for the past seven years.

    The money will come from federal stimulus money and public and private sources, and another $75 million from the federal government for the buildings’ annual operating costs.

    The 21 developments were built by the city or state and, unlike the city’s 313 other public housing complexes, received no federal financing. In 1998, the state cut off its share of financing for the developments, and in 2003, the city followed suit. To compensate, the public housing authority diverted some money from its federally supported buildings to cover operating and capital costs at the 21 unaided sites, about $1 billion since 1998. This accounted for two-thirds of the agency’s current deficit of about $150 million, officials said.

    Part of the federal financing was obtained though an obscure provision in Congress’s economic stimulus package. It enabled the agency to bring the 21 developments onto its federally financed roster, or “federalize” them, though a “mixed finance modernization plan.”

    The upshot is that the complexes will be sold to a limited partnership of the housing authority and Citigroup’s community development arm. The authority will continue to manage the developments and own the land they sit on, and part of the money they receive will come through the New York City Housing Development Corporation’s sale of bonds.

    The housing authority said the mixed public and private partnership was the only way to obtain the financing. The ownership transfer, which was closing this past weekend, would not affect the public housing status of the complexes, officials said, or make them vulnerable to privatization.

    “People were worried at first that existing residents would be displaced, or that rents would be jacked up to some form of market rate housing,” said John B. Rhea, chairman of the authority. “That won’t happen. Per the partnership agreement, it ensures they remain low-income housing in the future.”

    The bank will not receive any profits from rents, but through the partnership can earn tax benefits and credits under the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires lenders to support low-income neighborhoods.

    Rehabilitation at the 21 developments would include repairing roofs, brickwork and elevators, creating jobs for public housing tenants, he said.

    Lawmakers and politicians heralded the plan, some more cautiously than others. Mr. Rhea described its realization as “a home run.” Shaun Donovan, secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, which oversees and finances the authority, said it was “the most significant effort to preserve public housing in New York City history.”

    It required close collaboration between city agencies, state lawmakers, who passed legislation enabling the authority to sell the developments to the new partnership, and the work of United States Senator Charles E. Schumer and Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez.

    Senator Schumer, who led the effort to get money for the 21 complexes’ operating costs into the federal budget, said the plan “pulled these abandoned Nycha complexes back from the brink.”

    But City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, chairwoman of the Council’s Subcommittee on Public Housing, voiced concerns that a loophole might exist to pave the way for deregulation or privatization of the developments at some future date. The new ownership marks the first time in the authority’s history that some of its public housing buildings will be partly owned by a private bank.

    “Talk to me in 30 years,” she said. If the 21 developments were still public housing, she said, “I’ll say I’m glad I was proven wrong.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/ny...gewanted=print

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    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    Housing Hold-Up

    New York rethinks affordability after the crash


    by Matt Chaban


    The Briarwood Organization recently completed the Solara in the Melrose section of the Bronx
    but has had trouble filling it because its low-income tenants cannot receive mortgages


    As part of a complex deal with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, the state, and private groups, 21 of the city's most dillapidated public housing complexes finally became elligible for annual federal subsidies today, as well as an investment of more than $400 million. The deal is one of many helping to keep affordable housing afloat during the downturn, as chronicled in the following story from Issue 05, due out this week.

    Whether it is the past boom or the recent bust, affordable housing seems always to be in urgent demand. During the good times, rent-controlled and rent-stabilized units vaporized, and now sky-high rents have still not come back to earth.

    Blame for these developments often falls on the business-friendly Bloomberg administration, but affordable housing advocates and developers argue that, were it not for the mayor's efforts, the city could be in much worse shape. “Their affordable housing plan is one of the foremost in the country,” said Josh Lockwood, executive director of Habitat for Humanity New York City. “It’s pretty amazing that they’re on track in the middle of this recession.”

    Lockwood was referring to the New Housing Marketplace plan, updated on February 22. The centerpiece of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development’s affordable housing efforts, the plan was first laid out in 2002, and greatly expanded in 2005 on the eve of the mayor’s first re-election. It called for 165,000 units for some 500,000 residents by 2013, half of which would be created through new construction, often within market-rate developments, half through preservation of existing affordable units.

    The mayor announced that the program was indeed on track (with just under 100,000 units so far), but it will now take a slightly different tack, emphasizing retrofits and preservation over construction. In spite of the plan’s continued success, it is not immune to the current economy: Keeping it afloat will cost the city an additional $1 billion, and the completion date has been pushed back to 2014.

    Holly Leicht, Deputy Commissioner for Development at HPD, sees these changes as a virtue, not a failure. The city initially capitalized on new construction, leveraging inclusionary zoning and tax credits to entice developers to build in affordable units to their new "luxury" projects. With construction credit still frozen, almost no units are being created through this route, so the department has shifted its money to the other half of the equation, preserving units through tax credits and low-interest loans.

    “A lot of owners, particularly in Mitchell Llama housing, may have seen a pot of gold before, but now that pot of gold is gone, and they are much more interested in talking to us,” Leicht said. This is an especially enticing approach for the department because it has already committed heavily to such developments. Keeping them affordable now extends that investment.

    It also has a faster turn around than new construction, where many promised units remain unbuilt. “It’s taking longer, but we always anticipated this would be a long-term strategy,” she said. Still, Leicht said she believes the worst is over, and the department still managed to realize 12,500 affordable units last year, down from a high of 17,500 in 2008.

    New programs have also sprung up to help the city in its quest for more affordable housing, though they are experiencing varying degrees of success. The city has received two rounds of Neighborhood Stabilization Program funding from the federal government, which uses innovative data-tracking to fund small-scale projects, from home ownership assistance to foreclosure purchasing, helping head off the sort of disinvestment that plagued the city in the 1970s and ‘80s.

    One program that has yet to bear fruit, however, is one of the most celebrated, at least by the politicians who created it. With upwards of 600 stalled construction projects in the city, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn proposed the Housing Asset Renewal Program, or HARP. The program, announced last summer, would use city money to provide bridge loans to stalled projects, with $25,000 to $50,000 provided for each unit the developer converted to affordable housing. The goal was to create about 400 affordable units.

    So far, none have gone ahead. A deadline was originally set for December, but it was pushed back to April for lack of quality bids. Leicht said there are better offers coming in now, with more variety—not just small projects in the outer boroughs. The problem remains that few lenders, even with foreclosures in the offing, are willing to take the necessary discounts the program demands.

    “It’s a great idea,” said Jerilyn Perine, executive director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council, a local nonprofit research organization. “Ironically, because people are optimistic about our future here in New York, they aren’t willing to take a hit yet on their investment.”

    As with most problems since the collapse, blame has fallen on the bankers.

    James Riso, a principal at affordable housing developer the Briarwood Organization, said he used to close two to three apartments a day in his projects but is now lucky to see that many a month. Meanwhile, most developers are holding on, so competition remains fierce for the few affordable ground-up projects out there, forcing Briardwood to do more construction management, which is actually where the non-profit has it’s roots. “We’ve come full-circle,” Riso said."You have to adapt to your circumstances."

    Habitat for Humanity has, it has actually been prospering. It recently partnered with New York State to develop super low-interest mortgages for homeowners. With the proceeds, Habitat is now able to take out construction loans for the first time, expanding its building program. The group has also been negotiating short sales to keep buildings occupied and using its volunteers to clean up community centers and parks, making distressed neighborhoods less so. “Now’s the time to get creative,” Lockwood said.

    http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=4336

  14. #59
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    I've always wondered about this.

    Whatever it's called and why, it's ugly, isolated and uninviting.

    Just after it was built in 1980:


    http://www.housingauthority.lagcc.cu...&photoFormat=1

    In relation to its surroundings:


    http://www.pbase.com/dtoronto/image/54838984


    http://www.flickr.com/photos/antjeverena/106593080/


    The Curious Case of a Housing Complex’s Puzzling Name

    By CARA BUCKLEY AND ANDY NEWMAN

    There was a time when public-housing buildings were named after the greats. Jacob Riis. Walt Whitman. Eleanor Roosevelt.

    And then there was everything that came after all that, which goes some distance toward explaining how a public-housing complex in the Bronx acquired the unlikely name Morrisania Air Rights.

    The development was dragged into the public spotlight last week, after a shootout with the police left an officer injured and the gunman dead.

    The complex’s name, starkly utilitarian yet somehow enigmatic, left a few journalists scratching their heads. Could that really be its name? How? Why?

    The literal meaning of the name is straightforward enough. “City Is Planning Housing Over Bronx Rail Tracks,” reads the headline on a 1971 article in The New York Times (reproduced below). To build the three buildings, 19, 23 and 29 stories tall, on Park Avenue in the Morrisania neighborhood, the city’s developer had to buy the undeveloped airspace over the tracks – the air rights – from the railroad now known as Metro-North.

    But the question of why the New York City Housing Authority would choose such a strangely prosaic name is considerably more elusive.

    Sheila Stainback, a city housing authority spokeswoman, said Morrisania Air Rights was thusly named because it was built above Metro-North train tracks, but she was not immediately sure about the “why.”

    “I don’t know if it became a handy way to identify where they were,” she said.

    Reginald Bowman, president of a citywide council of public housing tenant association district leaders, said he had no idea. But he added that around the time that Morrisania Air Rights was being built – the late 1970s and early ’80s – the housing authority seemed to run out of creative steam, nomenclaturally speaking.

    “They weren’t looking for substantial or meaningful names for different developments,” he said. “And the names are really uninspired. It seems like people threw a bunch of names in the hat and called it whatever they pulled out of the hat.”

    Among the public housing sites built around that time: Atlantic Terminal Site 4B. Bedford-Stuyvesant Rehabs. Coney Island I (Site 8).

    What happened to evoking America’s heroes?

    Nicholas Dagen Bloom, a historian and the author of “Public Housing That Worked: New York in the Twentieth Century,” suggested that the inspired naming faded away when it became clear that public housing was not the idyllic utopia that its creators had envisioned. Once crime moved in, the noble names left.

    “By that time,” said Mr. Bloom, speaking of the ’70s and ’80s, “having a project housing named after you certainly wasn’t the honor it once was.”

    Outside Morrisania Air Rights last week, a man named Hoover Gonzalez who lives in the neighboring Andrew Jackson houses, explained the difference succinctly. “Andrew Jackson is after the president, and the air rights is because they got permission to put the buildings up,” he said. “They could have called it anything.”

    One wonders if another reason for the run of faceless names is that the housing authority had realized that no matter what it called its buildings, people would still line up to move into them, such is the severity of the permanent shortage of affordable housing in New York City. Why waste the effort on marketing, the authority might have figured.

    Fortunately, the rest of the world does not work that way. Imagine hopping in your Honda Tariff Protection Waiver and heading out to Tax-Exempt Bond Issue Stadium to watch the New York Major League Baseball Expansion Act of 1962’s play while downing a few Nathan’s Famous Processed-Beef Cylinders. It just wouldn’t feel the same.

    City Is Planning Housing Over Bronx Rail Tracks

    http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...puzzling-name/

  15. #60
    NYC Aficionado from Oz Merry's Avatar
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    When Brooklyn Projects Go Down, What Will Go Up?

    NYCHA's using community input to plan for what to build after three public housing towers are demolished. But the plan means a loss of public housing, and it confronts deep distrust from some tenants.

    By Eileen Markey



    Milton Bolton, the president of the tenants association at Prospect Plaza, points to plans for what will take the place of the high-rise housing project in Brownsville. It was emptied in 2002 for what was supposed to be a renovation and now will be a demolition.

    Brownsville — For the better part of ten years, the three empty towers of Prospect Plaza have loomed above Ocean Hill Brownsville. Most of their windows are shattered. Wind and rain whistle through the hallways, feral cats have taken over one of the buildings and pigeons roost in the others. More than 300 units of public housing in one of the city's poorest neighborhoods and not a soul in them.

    Tenants in Prospect Plaza, a New York City Housing Authority complex of 12- to 15- story apartment buildings, were removed in 2002 to make way for a major rehabilitation, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's HOPE VI program. But the renovations never happened. Instead NYCHA announced in February that after years of inaction and the financial failure of the firm hired to do the gut rehabilitation, the development was now so deteriorated it needed to be torn down. It is the first time New York City is demolishing an entire high-rise public housing development.

    NYCHA's Plan for Prospect Plaza


    In the towers' place, the housing authority envisions a series of smaller privately-owned apartment buildings catering to low-income residents. But only 80 of the replacement apartments will be actual public housing.

    To Milton Bolton, president of the still-extant Prospect Plaza Tenants Association, the new ideas don't make up for old failures. He and other former tenants distrust NYCHA's motives for the development. He thinks the apartments that were vacated by 365 families in 2002 were plenty liveable—that after years of neglect they could still be rehabilitated, if NYCHA were actually interested in bring back public housing tenants. "It's all about a bait and switch. This is what [NYCHA] is doing. They promise you the world but at the same time they say, 'I'm only going to give you a line,'" he says.

    He wants the authority to honor the plan tenants agreed to when they were removed from their homes: tenant management of the buildings, a career training initiative, an economic incubator to help small businesses set up shop on the perimeter of the NYCHA site, a day care facility and major community center.

    "They said 'We'll renovate it. We'll enlarge it.' We weren't supposed to be losing units," Bolton says.

    A mixed record

    NYCHA's record at Prospect Plaza is one neither of unbridled success nor abject failure. Of the 37-owner occupied houses built adjacent to Prospect Plaza as part of the HOPE VI plan in 2005, only one was bought by a former tenant, although 32 of the owners are former tenants of other public housing developments, according to NYCHA. The low- and moderate-income rental housing finished in 2009 as part of the HOPE VI plan includes 150 units. Forty-five are set aside for Prospect Plaza and other public housing residents. But they rely on the Section 8 program, which has suffered from budget cuts and uncertainty.

    Widely praised as a life-saver for severely distressed public housing, HOPE VI has also been devastating to the supply of such housing. Between 1992 and 2006, 100,000 units of public housing across the country were lost because of the program, according to a 2008 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington.

    That's because while HUD gave money to knock down housing, it didn't fully fund rebuilding. And while the apartments and houses that typically replace big towers like Prospect Plaza are targeted to working poor, they typically do not serve the poorest people—those who needed public housing to begin with.

    That need is real in Brownsville. More than a third of households here have yearly incomes below $18,000. And nearly two thirds take in less than $38,000, making many people too poor to qualify for private affordable housing.

    The plan, take two

    In June NYCHA convened a three-day conference at which 50 former residents, neighborhood people, elected officials and members of community groups such as The Good Old Lower East Side and Community Voices Heard talked about what they want to see at the new Prospect Plaza. The vision includes a community center and park, a large supermarket and space for independent businesses. NYCHA staff showed evident pride and excitement as they described residents contributions and thoughtful interactions at the conference.

    "We would like to be as close as possible to the community plan," says Patricia Barrera, NYCHA's senior deputy director for development, adding that the agency's Request for Proposals on redeveloping the site will be deeply informed by the re-visioning conference. "It's very simple. They want a development that fits in with the neighborhood character."
    In the past ten years 2,000 units of low-rise affordable housing have been built in Brownsville, Barrerra says, making the high-rise towers seem out of place.

    "It's a very different neighborhood than it was in 1999, when this process began."

    Residents will still have some time to wait. NYCHA expects to issue the RFP for 360 units of affordable housing next February and award the contract by fall 2011. Construction would begin in fall 2012, ten years after Prospect Plaza was emptied. It would then progress in three phases, Barrera says.

    And while the NYCHA team working on Prospect Plaza is energized by their interactions with the community, there are no promises that the plan articulated at the re-envisioning conference will actually come to fruition.

    "There are still pieces and challenges that we have to work through. People want an open park. How will that work? Who will maintain it? Should we be talking to the Trust for Public Land?," says Ilene Popkin NYCHA's assistant deputy general manager for development. She raised similar reservations about a community center and small businesses. But the public input "is definitely the bones and framework" of the planning process, she insists.

    Suspicions acknowledged

    The replacement units will all be subsidized housing, set at 60 percent of area media income, Popkin says. And while NYCHA won't run or manage the buildings, they will have a long term interest in them, whether though a deed restriction or a lease or other agreement with the eventual developer, she adds.

    The precise number of public housing units in the new development will depend on how financing is structured. With $17.8 million of the original HOPE VI money left, NYCHA can afford to have 80 units built. The rest of the development will be financed with some combination of tax-free bonds and tax credits, in conjunction with the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development and the Housing Development Corp. Those crucial partners were not involved in earlier Prospect Plaza plan, Popkin says.

    This time the plan is going to be executed, Popkin says, acknowledging that plenty of former residents and neighbors are suspicious and weary.

    "I think there is a general concern about demolishing towers. I think what we need to say is we understand that we have to earn their trust," she says. "There is a commitment to seeing it happen and to make transparency and responsiveness priorities."

    http://www.citylimits.org/news/artic...ontent=Twitter

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