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UES Pols Blast Plan to Build High-Rise on Top of Public Playground

By Shaye Weaver | September 17, 2015 5:44pm
 Holmes Towers has 540 units.
Holmes Towers has 540 units.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

MANHATTAN — Upper East Side politicians are hoping to put the brakes on the city's plan to build a mixed-income high-rise on top of a playground at Holmes Tower — saying the city shouldn't be able to use its land to build market-rate apartments.

Both Senator Jose Serrano and City Councilman Ben Kallos promised to fight to keep the new high-rise slated to rise at the East 93rd Street public housing complex affordable and to give residents a stake in the decision-making process going forward.

"I want you all to know whatever the situation is or plans going forward, I will demand that the community have a strong voice in the development and that affordability in perpetuity be the ultimate goal so we can have a city that is affordable, not just for the very wealthy, but for working class folks that make this community what it is," Serrano said at a Community Board 8 meeting on Wednesday.

"We are losing affordable housing at an alarming rate," he added.

Last week the New York City Housing Authority unveiled plans to develop a new building with 350 to 400 apartments, roughly half of them market-rate, where a playground currently stands in the 403 E. 93rd St. complex.

The new tower would be built next to two already existing towers, which have a total of 540 units. The project, part of the city's NextGen Neighborhoods program, would use revenue from the new building toward NYCHA's capital projects and to make repairs and improvements at other existing developments, officials said.

"NextGen Neighborhoods will allow NYCHA to make revenue to repair our aging infrastructure, with residents having a direct say in what capital repairs are addressed," said Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokeswoman for the agency.

NYCHA said it plans to hold meetings with residents over the next few weeks.

But residents were steamed to learn last week that market-rate apartments were going to move in next door.

On Wednesday, Kallos opposed the plan, saying NYCHA shouldn't be using its land for luxury development — a stance he took in August when the city held a hearing regarding the plan.

"Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and I both said we should not be using NYCHA, which is designated as affordable land for affordable housing to build luxury development," he said. "She said it must be 100 percent affordable, I said it needs to be approved by the tenants, needs to give preference, if possible a 100 percent preference so tenants get to move into new housing and it needs to be 100 percent affordable."

Community Board 8 Chairman James Clynes agreed, saying that current residents should have the right to move into the new building and it should be 100 percent affordable housing. He added that the tenants must support the project for it to move forward.

The board's housing committee will be asked to come up with a resolution in October, he said.

Earlier this year, Serrano introduced a law that would require a ULURP for any type of development on NYCHA land, making sure there is a "strong layer of community input to make sure these deals with developers don't happen in the dead of night," he said.

The legislation would also pertain to property owned by the city's Department of Education, Education Construction Fund and the School Construction Authority.

The bill has not passed the Senate yet, according to Serrano's spokesman George Damalas.