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City May Siphon Affordable Units for Homeless, Angering Locals

By Maya Rajamani | May 12, 2017 5:27pm | Updated on May 15, 2017 8:58am
 The vacant lot on 10th Avenue, between West 48th and 49th streets, where one of the buildings will rise.
The vacant lot on 10th Avenue, between West 48th and 49th streets, where one of the buildings will rise.
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DNAinfo/Maya Rajamani

HELL'S KITCHEN — A pair of long-awaited affordable buildings slated for the West Side could devote 10 percent of its units for the homeless — a possibility local officials say violates a promise the city made to provide dedicated middle-income housing at the site.

When the city rezoned the Western Rail Yards, it agreed to build two affordable housing developments in the neighborhood — one on a vacant lot on 10th Avenue between West 48th and 49th streets, and the other on a current MTA parking lot on Ninth Avenue and the corner of West 54th Street.

The city plans to release a request for proposal (RFP) seeking a developer for the two sites this summer, Zlata Kobzantsev, a planner with the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development, told Community Board 4’s Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen Land Use Committee Wednesday evening.

The city promised to reserve units at the two sites for much-needed moderate and middle-income housing in a 2009 “Points of Agreement,” committee member Joe Restuccia said.

So it came as a surprise when a rep for the city recently told the Community Board that ten percent of the approximately 267 units slated to be built between the two sites could be reserved to house the homeless.

“If we were a community that absolutely was saying, ‘NIMBY, NIMBY, NIMBY, don’t bring any homeless services into our community,' that would be one thing,” Restuccia said. “[But] this is a community that has a huge chunk of homeless housing, supportive housing, and we have never in this community turned down supportive housing or homeless housing.”

The Clinton Residence is on West 48th Street near 10th Avenue, and Fountain House is a block away on West 47th Street. Both provide services for the homeless, committee co-chair Jean-Daniel Noland noted.

The committee plans to write a letter to HPD asking that the city honor the commitment it made in the 2009 agreement.

HPD’s representatives agreed to take the committee's concerns back to the agency.

“This is very much a concern, obviously, because we were told one thing, and we agreed to one thing,” Noland told the reps.

“We’re doing our share, we’re doing more than our share, and when the city does this, it says to me they have no idea what they’re doing.”