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Residents Fume Over City's Plan to Build High-Rise on Top of UES Playground

By Shaye Weaver | September 14, 2015 8:32am | Updated on September 15, 2015 5:36pm
 The city plans to build a high-rise with 350 to 400 units on top of an existing playground.
NYCHA is planning to replace a playground with new housing.
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YORKVILLE — Residents of a public housing complex on East 93rd Street are fuming over the city's plan to build a mixed-income high-rise on top of their playground.

The New York City Housing Authority said it began contacting residents of Holmes Towers, at 403 E. 93rd St., this week about its plans to develop a new building with 350 to 400 apartments, roughly half of them market-rate, in their backyard — a move that residents called unfair to the people already living in the complex, who'd be losing play space and have to deal with dust and noise throughout the construction.

"What they're doing is taking from the kids," said Holmes Towers resident Unique Walker. "Where will our kids play? It's not fair that the poor suffer so the rich can have a place to live."

The changes are part of NYCHA's NextGen program, a 10-year plan that aims to shrink the agency's operating deficit, raise money for capital projects and provide more affordable housing. A portion of the revenue from the new tower would be used for repairs and improvement within NYCHA developments, officials said.

The two-building complex, which houses roughly 943 low- and middle-income residents, includes a playground in front of the building near First Avenue and East 92nd Street.

If the playground is removed, children who live at the Holmes Towers would have to walk to Ruppert Park on Second Avenue, between East 90th and 91st streets, or the Marx Brothers Playground at East 96th Street to find another playground.

The new building would add 350 to 400 units that would stand next to two already existing towers that have a total of 540 units, according to NYCHA officials.

Resident Luis Carmona, who raised his children there, said he didn't want another tower because it would damage the quality of life, which has already been compromised because of ongoing repairs at the complex.

Old bricks have been replaced on the existing building's facades and their terraces have also been undergoing renovation for the past six months. It's been noisy and dusty and the playgrounds were closed during that time for safety reasons, Carmona said.

The playground has reopened, but was closed for most of the summer, he added.

"Our kids are supposed to be there. They can't do that," he said about NYCHA's plans on Thursday. "It's supposed to feel safe for the kids."

One resident, who did not want to be named, said adding another building didn't make sense because there are already two towers on the property.

"That ain't gonna work. Why would it work?" one resident said. "We live right here and you're going to build a house right here?"

But residents were skeptical that their input would change anything. Walker said the city should show more interest in the well-being of its current residents.

For instance, residents have been party to discussions about the city's controversial East 91st marine transfer station that is under construction around the corner.

"We helped them with the garbage thing. They need to help us with this," Walker said. "But they're gonna do it anyway. Nobody cares about our opinions."