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Housing Authority Looking for Developers to Build on Public Land

By Serena Solomon | August 16, 2013 5:40pm
 A potential land lease site at Smith Houses on the Lower East Side
A potential land lease site at Smith Houses on the Lower East Side
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NEW YORK CITY — The New York City Housing Authority is pressing ahead with its controversial plan to generate income through the construction of luxury apartments on public housing land, inviting developers on Friday to submit proposals.

NYCHA released a Request for Expressions of Interest from developers for the design, construction and operation of 4,000 planned apartments in 14 towers across eight NYCHA housing complexes in Manhattan. Known as the Land Lease Plan, the cash-strapped NYCHA hopes to generate millions of dollars in funding through 99-year leases for the private developments that will replace playgrounds, parking lots and a community center.

Since the announcement of the plan earlier in the year, there has been staunch opposition from NYCHA residents and elected officials despite its goal to fund a $13.4 billion shortfall for NYCHA's capital improvements.

In the request, NYCHA revealed alterations to its original idea much of which is based on community feed back.

The eight participating developments would be the first to receive funding from the plan bringing them to a "state of good repair," according to a statement from NYCHA.

The eight sites are Campos Plaza in the East Village; the Washington Houses and Carver Houses in Harlem; the Frederick Douglass Houses on the Upper West Side; and the Smith Houses, LaGuardia Houses, Meltzer Tower and Baruch Houses on the Lower East Side.

Future funds generated by the plan would be divvied between NYCHA's 344 developments around the city, according to the housing authority.

All development sites in the Land Lease Plan except one housing complex — Meltzer Towers on the Lower East Side — would require a component of retail on the ground floor, according to the city's plan.

The project will have to go through the city's land use review process, which includes oversight by the city council and the borough president.

The city also laid out hiring goals for successful developers. At least 15 percent of construction labor "should come from NYCHA residents" and 30 percent of permanent job opportunities in the private developments "need to be targeted to NYCHA residents."

Responses are due Monday Nov. 18th.

At a public hearing last month, residents and elected officials slammed NYCHA accusing the housing authority of steamrolling residents with the proposal and a lack of communication.

For Dereese Huff, tenant association president at Campos Plaza in the East Village, the potential development would mean the loss of a basketball court that hosts more than just sports.

"It is where we have our community events — our baby showers, birthday parties, Fourth of July, Labor Day," Huff said, at the public hearing.  "It keeps our kids outside — it keeps them out of trouble."