Congressional Leaders, City Council Speaker and City Council Members Join Resident Association Leaders from the Impacted Developments and Community Advocates Calling for NYCHA To Stop The Land Rush and Halt The NYCHA Infill Project
TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2013

Congressional and City Council leaders, along with Resident Association Leaders and Community Advocates held a press conference today, on the City Hall steps, calling for an immediate halt of the NYCHA Infill Project and demanding transparency, accountability, and increased scrutiny by community leaders in any Infill proposals. The event was coordinated by Judith Goldiner, Attorney-in-Charge of The Legal Aid Society's Civil Law Reform Unit.

Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez, Congressman Charles Rangel, Congressman Jerrold Nadler, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, City Council Members Rosie Mendez, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Margaret Chin and Gail Brewer, the Resident Association Presidents from the Impacted Developments and Community Advocates expressed concerns regarding the manner in which NYCHA intends to raise additional revenues, through its disposition of property and charged that sufficient information has not been given to public housing residents, elected officials or other stakeholders about NYCHA’s plans to lease “under-utilized” land at select NYCHA sites. The Infill Development project must be slowed-down in order to provide time for meaningful resident and community involvement in the process.

Attached to the press release is a letter to NYCHA signed by Resident Association Presidents representing 7 of the 8 impacted developments opposing the plan. The letter calls attention to NYCHA’s failure to seek true community engagement and calling for NYCHA to abandon its Land Lease proposal, and “instead commit resources to finding all other sources of funding for much-needed building repairs and day-to-day operations.”

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) stated, "I oppose this plan, which is bad for New York's working families. NYCHA has failed to consult the community throughout the process and, as a result, this plan ignores the needs of tenants."

“We understand why NYCHA needs to generate new revenue,” said Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY).” But if private redevelopment capital is being brought into our public housing communities, it should be carefully planned with residents from the start. NYCHA’s approach has been rushed, secretive, and narrowly-focused on residential rather than retail or commercial development, without meaningful community engagement. This is bad planning. NYCHA has to press the reset button on the Infill plan.”

Also concerned about the current approach of NYCHA regarding infill development at eight public housing developments in Manhattan, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) stated "I am disturbed by the current approach of the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) regarding infill development at eight public housing developments in Manhattan. It is clear that NYCHA is not interested in real transparency or communal dialogue with residents. While we all understand that NYCHA needs additional income in the face of a mounting deficit, residents must have ample opportunity to express their concerns before any plan moves forward, and the community's needs must be taken into account in any plan. NYCHA must halt its current plan and fully consider all options to generate revenue without replacing public spaces with luxury housing."

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said “NYCHA’s failure to meaningfully engage with tenants before moving forward with plans to privatize land at its developments is misguided and wrong. Any proposal to change the landscape of affordable housing for thousands of New Yorkers must be a transparent, community-driven process that both reflects the needs of the tenants and gives them the opportunity to help shape the future of their own neighborhoods. I stand with tenants, my colleagues in government, and housing advocates to urge NYCHA to stop this project at once.”

Rosie Mendez, Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Public Housing said “We stand here today with a clear and unmistakable message for NYCHA—follow the collective will of the residents. Our residents have been "consulted" and "presented to" and today they are giving clear feedback—the current Infill proposals and procedures for engaging the community have fallen short and it is time to go back to the drawing board. A true community planning process that examines a range of diverse revenue-generating options and develops each—step-by-step—in concert with the residents should be endeavored upon with the clear safeguards of TPA funding and ULURP process protections locked in place from the very first instant.”

"With all of the developments in my district standing in opposition to the proposed infill development plan, it is clear that NYCHA needs to regroup and rethink its strategy for engaging with these developments," said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito. "We need a real community-driven planning process for any development that is even considered for NYCHA land, and we need to put all options on the table for raising revenue. I will continue to work with my colleagues, advocates and of course resident leaders in my district to ensure that NYCHA hears the concerns of local residents regarding infill development."

“These proposals portend major impacts on the day-to-day lives of residents,” said Council Member Margaret Chin. “They deserve a voice in this process, but talks have been largely one-sided thus far. We call on NYCHA to meaningfully engage the community through ULURP, listen to the feedback, and reformulate these plans to work on the ground. Together, we can find solutions that not only generate much-needed revenue, but also take into the consideration the invaluable input of affected neighborhoods.”

"This plan will have an adverse impact on our communities," said Councilmember Gail Brewer, a long-time advocate on these issues. At the February 1, 2013 hearing, NYCHA announced that it intended to issue Requests for Proposals (“RFPs”) for development on 16 sites located in eight NYCHA public housing developments throughout Manhattan, by mid-March, 2013. This has since been delayed to July 2013. This news came as a huge shock to public housing residents, advocates and the impacted local communities as they had been led to believe that NYCHA would first release information about the location of the sites and details of planned development before taking the advanced steps of releasing RFPs. NYCHA has still not publicly issued a document with a comprehensive plan containing a list of each of the selected development sites in Manhattan, with critical details such as information on the size of any planned development, the numbers of affordable units that it expects to generate, how the revenues will be spent and where.

“Unfortunately, NYCHA’s roll out of its Infill program has lacked meaningful dialogue with affected communities. It should therefore come as no surprise that the program has been met with considerable resistance,” said David R. Jones, President and CEO of the Community Service Society. “In light of that, the Authority should halt the program and focus its efforts on engaging all stakeholders -- especially public housing residents – on whether and how private re-development of NYCHA assets might benefit our public housing communities. Anything short of that only raises concerns about whose interests will really be served by this plan in the rush to lease open space on public housing sites to the highest-bidding developers.

"Instead of selling public land to the highest bidder for luxury housing, NYCHA should stop paying and the City should stop collecting over $70 million for police services that private landlords do not pay for," said Steven Banks, Attorney in Chief, The Legal Aid Society. "Residents need a real process to insure that NYCHA's plans meet residents' needs."

“The fact is, this plan would put our housing and quality of life at risk, all the while not generating enough funding to make a real dent in NYCHA’s deficit,” says Damaris Reyes, Executive Director of GOLES. “Instead of bringing in private luxury housing developers who will profit millions, NYCHA needs to stop paying the NYPD over $70 million a year, which will generate more money for public housing than this plan does. We need a new process altogether that explores other revenue regenerating options, finds ways to cut costs and that truly safeguards our public housing for the future.”

"In Washington Houses, this plan will destroy a Community Center that serves over 4,000 residents a day for Washington Houses and the local community. This is not a plan that residents would have come up with if they were consulted" said Domingo Munoz, Washington Houses Vice-President and member of Community Voices Heard.

"No one denies that NYCHA is facing budgetary problems, but giving away prime New York real estate for luxury housing without any real engagement of NYCHA residents is not a solution: it's the standard operating procedure of Mike Bloomberg's 1% administration," NY Communities for Change Executive Director Jonathan Westin said. "This plan needs to be stopped, and a real strategy must be developed — one that includes real resident involvement, that takes into account their actual needs, and that examines all available revenue options."

Denise M. Miranda, Esq. Managing Director, UJC, pointed out that “instead of working with residents to draft a comprehensive plan to preserve and enhance public housing, NYCHA has decided to erect towers of luxury housing. These luxury developments will not address NYCHA’s deficit in funding nor will it provide any respite for NYCHA residents who, like all New Yorkers, want to live in buildings that are free of toxic mold, leaking ceilings and dangerous elevators. Infill will not solve those problems.”

NYCHA should to make available some of its unused Tenant Participation Activity (TPA) funds (amounts given to NYCHA by HUD), currently estimated by NYCHA to be around $15 million, to secure access to independent, technical resources, such as lawyers, architects, environmental consultants, and planners who can help affected resident councils to fully understand their options and rights and to secure concessions and opportunities for residents under each proposal of the Infill Development project.