Housing Authority Reveals More About Plan to Lease Land to Developers

SAM_0246Lila Selim A parking lot at Campos is slated for redevelopment.

Mayor Bloomberg released more details today about the New York City Housing Authority’s controversial plan to lease its property to private developers, indicating that a request for proposals will go out around the end of April and developers for the sites will be chosen between August and November.

State Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, one of the elected officials who had demanded more transparency and community outreach from the housing authority, called the Mayor’s response (below) “the most specific document available” regarding the agency’s plan to allow private development on its property. He also pointed to other positive steps in recent days. During a meeting with the state assembly’s housing committee Friday, N.Y.C.H.A. revealed that it would ask prospective developers to propose security and energy upgrades for the affected complexes, said Mr. Kavanagh.

For the first time, the housing authority has also posted information about its plan on its Website.

Still, members of Community Board 3 are concerned that they won’t have a chance to consider the plan until days before the request for proposals goes out.

Fred Harris, Executive Vice President for Development at the housing authority, was scheduled to talk to the board’s public housing committee last night. But his presentation was postponed until next month’s committee meeting, on April 17. That’s a little over a week before the housing authority is expected to send out its request for proposals.

The no-show indicated that the housing authority is barreling ahead with its plan, said committee member Lisa Kaplan: “It says that they’re going ahead on their merry way.”

Mr. Harris cancelled his appearance because the agency was scheduled to meet with the tenants association at Baruch Houses, one of the eight sites where parking lots, basketball courts, garbage compactor yards, and seating areas will be leased to private developers. During that meeting, “speaker after speaker blasted N.Y.C.H.A. for mismanagement, for deceiving residents about past plans and for failing to take care of Baruch, a complex that opened in 1954,” according to The Lo-Down.

Community Board 3 has jurisdiction over five of the eight sites slated for redevelopment: Baruch Houses, Meltzer Towers, LaGuardia Houses, Smith Houses, and Campos Plaza.

During a meeting with Campos Plaza residents earlier this month, housing authority officials revealed their plan to lease 26,000 square feet of the complex’s land, currently being used for two parking lots and a basketball court, for 99 years. Private developers would be invited to build housing consisting of 80 percent market-rate units and 20 percent permanent low-income housing, and revenue generated by the lease agreement would be used to subsidize long-called-for improvements to the aging high-rises on East 13th Street, between Avenues B and C.

The committee worried last night that the 10 days between the April 17 meeting and the request for proposals would not be enough to allow for transparency in the process of moving toward private development on public land. “We should write another letter to the elected officials asking N.Y.C.H.A. to hold off so that the community board can have a formal hearing,” suggested committee co-chair David McWater.

Mr. Kavanagh agreed that “so far the community outreach and the communication with the general public and elected officials has been inadequate,” but noted that “in the last week or so we’ve started to see more specifics and more outreach.”

“We’re still working to put as much flesh on the bones as we can and make sure these commitments are articulated in writing,” he said.

2013-03-15 Letter From Mayor Re Infill by thelocaleastvillage

Additional reporting by Daniel Maurer.