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City Seeks Input After Deciding to Put High-Rise on Top of UES Playground

By Shaye Weaver | April 13, 2016 1:58pm
 NYCHA is inviting Holmes Towers residents to participate in a stakeholders committee that would work with the developer of the new NextGen housing planned for the site.
NYCHA is inviting Holmes Towers residents to participate in a stakeholders committee that would work with the developer of the new NextGen housing planned for the site.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

UPPER EAST SIDE — The city's planning to drop a mixed-income tower into an existing public housing complex on East 93rd Street whether those who already live there like it or not — but now it's offering residents a chance to participate in deciding its design.

The New York City Housing Authority is forming a committee of locals, including Holmes Towers residents, that would regularly meet with the developer during the design process. But residents say it doesn't make a difference, because they're opposed as a whole to the project, which involves building the new high-rise on top an East 92nd Street playground. 

"No matter how much they beautify it, even if they do something for us, it's still something we don’t want,” said Sandra Perez, president of the Holmes Towers tenants association. “No matter what they put there, no matter what we ask for, it's still not something we want."

In September last year, NYCHA announced plans to build a new tower with a mix of market-rate and low-income apartments in the Holmes Towers complex on the Upper East Side, and in Wyckoff Gardens in Boerum Hill.

As part of its NextGen Neighborhoods project, it aims to use the profit from its new market-rate apartments towards capital repairs at its affordable housing sites across the city.

But residents at both complexes have been up at arms since the project was announced, saying their concerns were left out — and despite already holding 34 meetings with tenants — the city has so far kept quiet about how it plans to address the impact of construction and the congestion that a flood of new tenants would bring.

"NYCHA may be holding small meetings, but they're the ones talking, repeating the same things over and over again and not getting input from the tenants," Perez said.

NYCHA has already chosen the exact locations of both buildings, but it's taking applications for its "stakeholder committees" to let residents share "pros and cons of building locations," decide the look and feel of the buildings and prioritize capital repairs in the rest of the complexes. 

Tenants and local officials say they're skeptical of whether their opinions will matter in the end though since so far decisions about the plan have not involved their input.

"I feel like NYCHA is not negotiating in good faith and not willing to hear a 'no' from residents," City Councilman Ben Kallos said. “If NYCHA’s NextGen meetings didn’t lead to the community having a voice in the process, I question whether these committees will have any more impact than the previous meetings did."

Each committee will be made up of roughly a dozen members, including residents of varying ages, a non-NYCHA resident from the community, members of community organizations and local elected officials, according to NYCHA.

Participants should be in "good standing," be able to meet five to 10 hours each month and fulfill a one-year commitment.

Applications are due May 6. For more information on how to apply, visit NYCHA's website.

NYCHA said it will put out a Request for Proposals this spring seeking a developer and will select one by the fall.