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NYCHA Tenants Rally Against Plan For New Mixed-Income Housing

By Nikhita Venugopal | November 18, 2015 1:52pm
 Wyckoff Gardens tenants and members of
Wyckoff Gardens tenants and members of "FUREE" host a rally outside the NYCHA complex in Boerum Hill on Monday evening.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

BOERUM HILL — A housing advocacy group is mobilizing tenants to voice their concerns for NYCHA's plan to allow developers to build more than 500 market-rate and affordable units in Wyckoff Gardens.

F.U.R.E.E., a program under the Fifth Avenue Committee that stands for Families United for Racial and Economic Equality, is urging the New York City Housing Authority to give local tenants a seat at the table during the planning process for the proposed developments. 

The city has proposed taking over two "underutilized" parking lots in Wyckoff Gardens and replacing them with 550 to 650 residential units. The apartments would be 50 percent market-rate and 50-percent affordable, according to the proposal. 

 Wyckoff Gardens is a NYCHA housing development that's bound by Third Avenue, Baltic, Wyckoff and Nevins streets.
Wyckoff Gardens is a NYCHA housing development that's bound by Third Avenue, Baltic, Wyckoff and Nevins streets.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

Tenants at the Boerum Hill housing projects have been wary of the plan since it was first announced in September, fearing it as a step in the direction of losing low-income housing.

"Give me something in black and white that [says] I'm not going to lose my apartment," said Monica Underwood, who has rented in Wyckoff Gardens for 33 years.

Wyckoff Gardens — bound by Third Avenue, Wyckoff, Nevins and Baltic streets — consists of three 21-story buildings with 528 apartments. A family of three is eligible to rent a unit if their income does not exceed $62,150.

The affordable units in the proposed new buildings will be marketed to residents whose income is below 60 percent of the area median income, or $46,620.

Underwood also questioned why she should support the plan for development on her doorstep when NYCHA has failed to address maintenance issues within the public housing apartments. 

"They're not even fixing anything on the inside," she said. 

But according to NYCHA, a portion of revenue from the new development would be used for repairs in public housing and support the agency's "chronic operating deficit and $17 billion in unmet capital needs" under its NextGen Neighborhoods program.

Shatia Strother, lead organizer of F.U.R.E.E. said the group was demanding a resident-led engagement process that provided more information on the plan to locals. 

"It ends with a seat at the decision-making table for Wyckoff Garden residents,"she said during a rally and news conference Monday evening with about a dozen local residents and City Councilman Steve Levin. 

Along with Wyckoff Gardens, city officials have identified Holmes Towers in the Upper East Side as another site for private development.

Strother said public housing residents have a "deep distrust" of the city agency as a result of years of neglect and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg's controversial infill plan — similar in some respects to Mayor Bill de Blasio's plan — that would have brought 80 percent market-rate homes on NYCHA property adjacent to low-income rentals. 

Strother announced that through negotiations, NYCHA had agreed to delay the request for proposals (RFPs) by six months. NYCHA spokeswoman Aja Worthy-Davis told DNAinfo that they would "slow down the process" and continue to hold community engagement meetings.

Underwood said she and other tenants still "need much more information before deciding" whether to support the plan or not. 

The next meeting is scheduled for Nov. 30 from 6 to 8 p.m. at 280 Wyckoff St. 

"In our commitment to meaningful engagement, we continue to listen to feedback and input from residents and community groups on the best path to preserve public housing," spokeswoman Worthy-Davis said in a statement to DNAinfo, "since we all agree—the status quo is not an option. We urge residents to continue to be involved in developing the vision for their community.”