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Cooper Park Tenants Skeptical of Plan to Fund Repairs With Market Rate Apts

By Gwynne Hogan | October 3, 2017 8:36am
 The city announced its plan to allow a private developer to build a mix of market rate and affordable apartments on a parking lot as part of the NextGeneration NYCHA plan.
The city announced its plan to allow a private developer to build a mix of market rate and affordable apartments on a parking lot as part of the NextGeneration NYCHA plan.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

EAST WILLIAMSBURG — The city's plans to build subsidized and market-rate apartments on the parking lot of the Cooper Park Houses was met with skepticism and resistance Monday from neighborhood residents.

The construction plan, which could have up to 500 apartments, half subsidized, will bring in investment to allow the New York City Housing Authority to chip away at the $59 million in repairs the development needs, the agency said.

“NextGen Neighborhoods raises desperately needed money for NYCHA and creates affordable housing for the city," said NYCHA Chair Shola Olatoye. "Residents at Cooper Park Houses will benefit from overdue repairs and new community resources to improve their quality of life.”

Half of whatever funds the city earns will go directly to Cooper Park Houses to make much needed fixes on roofs, doors, flooring, bathrooms, stairs, pipes, sewage and lighting systems, according to the agency. 

The rest gets distributed among other developments, according to NYCHA spokeswoman Jasmine Blake.

But the plan, which residents say was sprung on them late last week following a report in the Wall Street Journal, has been met by immediate opposition from local residents and tenant leaders. Residents got fliers under their doors Friday saying they should expect community meetings in the coming weeks about the plan.

Cooper Park Houses Tenant Association President Julie Foster said she was "not a happy camper" and worried that the new building would bring unwanted density to a tranquil part of the development.

"I will stand with my residents and so far I know they don't want it," she said.

Foster pointed out the parking lot the city wants to lease out to a developer is adjacent to a row of private homes.

"We can already see into the private houses. We're going to be in bed with one another. 'Hello, good morning, let's have breakfast.'" she said. "It's a very small, narrow parking lot."

She also worried that the so-called "affordable" apartments would be out of reach of current tenants of the Cooper Park Houses.

"I'm so tired of this word "affordable." Affordable for whom? Not affordable for us if we don't want to live in NYCHA anymore. And this market rate crap is not working," she said.

Another lifelong resident, Sonia Lipford, 49, who also works for NYCHA on their tenant safety patrol, said she was skeptical that the cash infusion would make its way back to Cooper Park.

"They've told us things like this before," she said. "We don't want to see a new building go up [without] getting stuff done for ourselves."

Lipford said they've gotten spot fixes in individual apartments when they really need a full overhaul on plumbing and gas lines that get backed up and shut off periodically.

"Are we really gonna get [improvements], not just a patch job, then a patch job," she wondered.

Cooper Park Houses is the fourth NYCHA development put forth by the city as part of the NextGeneration Neighborhoods plan. They plan is already marching forward at the LaGuardia Houses East Village, Holmes Towers in Yorkville and Wyckoff Gardens in Boerum Hill.

Current NYHCA residents will get priority in 25 percent of the affordable apartments built at the Cooper Park Houses building, according to the city.

Following its official announcement Monday, NYCHA will begin to meet and discuss the plan with residents and plans to release a request for proposals for developers after that, the agency said.