The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

Community Blindsided by Tentative HUD Support for Senior Relocation Plan

By Allegra Hobbs | February 2, 2017 8:36am
 The mixed-income tower at 247 Cherry St. would include a landscaped courtyard.
The mixed-income tower at 247 Cherry St. would include a landscaped courtyard.
View Full Caption
JDS Development Group

LOWER EAST SIDE — Elected officials and community members were blindsided Monday by news that property owners had already received a letter of conditional support from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to relocate more than a dozen elderly residents to accommodate the construction of a neighboring tower.

According to letters obtained by The Lo-Down, Victor Papa of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Alexa Sewell of Settlement Housing Fund wrote to HUD officials in November 2016 asking the agency to sign off on the temporary relocation of up to 19 seniors who live at 80 Rutgers Slip while the JDS Development Group builds a 77-story tower over the senior building.

Nine units would have to be cleared out for a year while construction is ongoing and would be fully renovated, the letter states, while 10 units will be wiped out permanently — those seniors would be housed in the new development once construction is complete. If the relocations end up being necessary, the displaced seniors would be temporarily housed in a couple of nearby affordable housing developments.

The letter notes the development, made possible when Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Settlement Housing Fund sold the air rights to JDS, will bring 155 below-market-rate units to the neighborhood and will facilitate renovations and flood protection infrastructure for the neighboring buildings.

HUD responded, stating the agency supports the plan “based on the limited information” provided, but that formal approval will have to be sought in the future, as the plan is about two years away from becoming a reality.

But Councilwoman Margaret Chin said she was shocked to learn about the correspondence. She had been prodding the property owners for details on the potential relocations and had been told there was nothing in ink yet, she told the Lo-Down.

Chin subsequently issued a statement to DNAinfo New York explaining that she was disturbed HUD had given its conditional approval without consulting her or community members.

“When a senior relocation plan gets crucial support from a federal agency charged with monitoring and regulating a building that houses seniors without any public consultation, it raises serious questions about those who stand to benefit from the sale of development rights at that property, and the proposed development as a whole,” Chin said.

“I plan to join my fellow elected officials to express our deep concerns to HUD and the development team about the current level of communication regarding the senior relocation plan, as well as the entire proposal to construct such a large tower directly over a vulnerable population of low-income seniors.” 

Trever Holland, president of the tenant association at Two Bridges Tower, said he was also blindsided by the letters. Though property owners and developers had previously stated it may be necessary to temporarily relocate a few seniors, he had no idea the conversation about a plan had begun, he said.

“In my discussion with developers and other parties, we had no indication the plan had been even submitted to HUD, much less given a conditional approval,” Holland said.

But Victor Papa, president of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, said the letter is simply preliminary and does not represent a pitch of any solidified plan — he was just following protocol in reaching out to HUD with a broad description of what the plan may be, he explained, and had been hammering out a date to meet with Chin to discuss the relocation issue when the letters came to light.

"It's all preliminary," said Papa. "We're looking for expertise that could handle this very delicate personal process with the tenant in a way that lessens the impact on the tenant."

A HUD spokesman noted the agency has not formally approved the plan and that it would work with Chin and community stakeholders.

“HUD has not issued any formal approval to relocate residents at the Two Bridges Development,” said a HUD spokesman. 

“Should a formal request be necessary, HUD will conduct a thorough and complete review prior to approval. Our staff look forward to working with Councilwoman Chin, the Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, and community residents going forward.”

Settlement Housing Fund did not immediately return a request for comment.