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City Seeks Developer For New Mixed-Income Tower on Top of UES Playground

By Shaye Weaver | July 5, 2016 11:54am
 Holmes Towers currently has 540 units but could increase by 300 if the NextGen project moves forward.
Holmes Towers currently has 540 units but could increase by 300 if the NextGen project moves forward.
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DNAinfo/Shaye Weaver

YORKVILLE — The city is looking for a developer to build a high rise with half market-rate apartments at the Holmes Tower public housing development on East 92nd Street, officials said.

The New York City Housing Authority released a Request for Proposals on June 30, seeking a developer to build a mixed-income tower with 300 units on top of an existing playground at the complex.

The requirements for the plan also include building a 5,000 square-foot community center, a new playground to replace the one being destroyed, parking spaces and trees along the front of the development.

All proposals are due by Sept. 30.

The plan to develop market-rate apartments at the site — part of a city program called NextGen — is meant to gather capital funds to make repairs at NYCHA developments across the city, including Holmes Towers, though officials would not say exactly how much would be dedicated to them.

As a part of NextGen, NYCHA continues to look for public land to build more mixed-income housing. The first sites include Holmes Towers and Boerum Hill’s Wyckoff Gardens.

► Read more: City Seeks Developer to Build 500 Mixed Income Units at Wyckoff Gardens

The RFP was released with a wish list from residents of what kind of improvements and mitigation they'd like to see at Holmes as a part of the project. The list included improved seating areas, gardening, parking areas, a new affordable gym, a small business incubator or job training center and a health facility, among others.

Residents also ask that the developer keep shadows in mind when building the tower so that natural light can still flow into existing apartments. Homes, a two-building complex, is already home to 540 units.

A playground on East 92nd Street near First Avenue will have to be removed and replaced to make room for the new tower, officials said.

Residents have been against the plan from the beginning, saying the city shouldn’t be able to build market-rate apartments on public land. They said they're also concerned about increased density on the lot.

NYCHA has promised to use a percentage of the income from the new building to make much-needed repairs on the property, but residents said the repairs should've been made regardless.

Although the development, which was built in 1969, has undergone major rehab, including a parking lot upgrade, a roof replacement and a new surveillance system over the last 12 years, it still needs $33 million in capital repairs, a NYCHA spokeswoman said.

Following the release of the RFP, Councilman Ritchie Torres said no amount of promised improvements will justify the lack of repair and renovation at the development, not even a brand new community center.

"It's pretty negligible," Torres said. "It's no substitute for fundamental improvements in their living conditions, and if NYCHA had made improvements at the outset, some residents would feel better about the process. This is truly a tragic necessity. In a more rational universe, NYCHA would receive more federal funding, but to have to lease out public housing land for market rate apartments is a real indication of what has become of this country.”

The developer, once selected, will be required to train and hire public housing and low-income residents, and engage with NYCHA residents on a regular basis as the project moves forward, officials said.

Torres said he will continue “aggressive oversight” of NYCHA and its developments to make sure residents benefit.

“The NextGen Neighborhoods program enables the Authority to not only create much-needed housing for low-income New Yorkers, but to generate revenue, which will be reinvested back into the development site and across NYCHA’s portfolio," the NYCHA spokeswoman said. "Resident and stakeholder feedback will help determine priorities for capital repairs, which will occur concurrently with new construction.“