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See the Controversial Mixed-Income Tower Set to Rise on UES Playground

By Shaye Weaver | May 18, 2017 9:43am
 The new tower will rise 47 stories and feature a recreation center and playgrounds, according to city officials.
The new tower will rise 47 stories and feature a recreation center and playgrounds, according to city officials.
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Fetner Properties

YORKVILLE — The city finally released renderings of a mixed-income tower set to rise on top of an existing playground at the Holmes Towers public housing complex — and while the city is celebrating, some locals see the news as "salt in the wound."

The images released Wednesday are the first to come out of a year-and-a-half long debate between current Holmes Towers residents and the New York City Housing Authority about the logistics of the plan, which falls under the city's new NextGen program meant to raise capital funds for its existing developments across the city.

The renderings show a 47-story, off-white building rising among the red-brick Holmes Towers buildings on East 93rd Street, as well as a new 18,000-square-foot recreation and community center run by Asphalt Green and new playgrounds.

Asphalt Green will run its recreation center, which will include an indoor basketball court, a rooftop turf field and low-cost programming.

Credit: Fetner Properties

"This energy-efficient project will provide much-needed affordable housing for low-income New Yorkers, a dynamic new community facility, job opportunities for NYCHA residents, and a much-needed infusion of revenue to address the capital needs of existing NYCHA buildings," said Department of Housing Preservation & Development Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer, in a statement. 

"I’m grateful to the community leaders, local residents, and all of our partners for collaborating to find innovative solutions to our city’s housing crisis.”

NYCHA also announced that it hired Fetner Properties to develop the building and rec center after putting out a Request for Proposals (RFP) in July.

Based in New York City, Fetner has done a number of residential buildings over its 65-year history, including high-rises across the Upper East Side such as 1280 Fifth Ave., 90 East End Ave. and the Chesapeake at 345 E. 94th St.

Both Fetner and Asphalt Green promise to provide at least 50 percent of all permanent jobs at the new center to NYCHA residents, officials said.

The new high-rise will feature 300 units, half of which will be market-rate and the other half affordable.

The affordable units will be designated for residents earning less than $41,000 for an individual and $52,000 for a family of three. NYCHA residents will receive preference for 25 percent of the affordable units.

Estella Natale, a Holmes Tower resident who took part in stakeholder committee meetings over the past year, said that the coming changes will be mostly positive ones, especially since she feels Fetner representatives listened to their needs.

"We have to adjust, like anything," she told DNAinfo New York on Wednesday. "There's going to be more people on that block and the building is tall, but I'm excited about the partnership with Asphalt Green and having better lighting, more security and playgrounds for children of different ages. Nothing is perfect. We'll take it."

But Holmes Tower resident Lakesha Taylor — who is also a member of Community Voices Heard, which has taken a stand against the project — said that the new amenities are "not worth it."

"I was adamant that my choice is 'no,' but a lot of people felt it wasn't a choice," she said about supporting the project. "I think this process was pretty much a sham. We were basically told we didn't have a choice and this was what was going to happen regardless. People said they chose [to support the plans] because it was the lesser of two evils."

Councilman Ben Kallos agrees with Taylor that the project isn't really what the community wants, noting that the minimum annual income required for a NYCHA resident to live in a new unit of affordable housing in the building is $38,100.

"This isn't about affordable housing," he told DNAinfo New York. "I said I'd only support something that is 100 percent affordable ... and designated for NYCHA tenants. They set it above the eligible incomes for NYCHA residents. It's pouring salt in a wound that they're building housing that none of the NYCHA residents can get into."

READ MORE: Residents Fume Over City's Plan to Build High-Rise on Top of UES Playground

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