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Committee Approves Housing Plan

9-17 Second AvenueStephanie Butnick The housing committee of Community Board 3 approved a plan to renovate a string of properties at 9 and 11-17 Second Avenue. The next step is a vote by the full community board Dec. 21.

The housing committee of Community Board 3 tonight endorsed a proposal to renovate a string of properties along a stretch of Second Avenue and turn them into a new mixed-income development.

The move also brings the temporary closure of the iconic Mars Bar, which is located on one of the properties, a bit closer to becoming a reality. The bar, a fabled East Village haunt, would likely remain closed for the two years it will take to renovate the property.

Representatives from the project’s developer, BFC Partners, and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board explained the project, which would rebuild properties at 9 and 11-17 Second Avenue – currently in various states of disrepair and in some cases, code violation – into a single 12-story building offering both permanently affordable housing and market-rate units.

A tenant from 11-17, Gretchen Green, spoke in support of the project, saying “It’s going to give me an apartment where I can close the windows, and a safe place for my daughter and grandson to visit.”

The existing tenants of both buildings will be offered space in the new building – with the option to buy the new apartments for $1. A low fee to be sure, but – under the terms of the renovation agreement – the apartments will never be allowed to be offered at market rate (the re-sale price for the units is about $180,000).

Not all tenants are as optimistic as Ms. Green. John Vaccaro, a resident 11-17 Second Avenue for more than three decades who did not attend the meeting, told The Local afterward, “I don’t support them taking down what should be a landmarked building.” And, at 81, he is not keen to be relocated for the roughly two years it would take for the project to be completed.

Nevertheless, the committee voted to recommend the project, with one committee member abstaining – Val Orselli of the Cooper Square Mutual Housing Association declined to vote, citing a past professional relationship with the developers.

And what of the Mars Bar? It’ll be resurrected in the renovated space, owner Hank Penza says: “bigger and better, but with the same attitude.”

The next step is a Dec. 21 meeting, where the full Community Board will vote on the project.

Plan Would Add Low Income Housing

9-17 Second AvenueStephanie Butnick The buildings at 9, and 11-17 Second Avenue, which will be renovated as part a new development featuring low-income apartments that would be available for as little as $1.

Developers are expected to seek Community Board approval Wednesday for a plan to renovate a row of properties along Second Avenue, and sell some of the apartments to low-income families for as little as $1.

The mostly low-income families who currently live in the two buildings at 9 and 11-17 Second Avenue are guaranteed units in the proposed development, which would combine the two structures into one larger building.

The project, run by development firm BFC Partners, is operating under the Department of City Planning’s 2009 amendment to the inclusionary housing program, which creates permanently affordable housing, now with the option to buy. According to Juan Barahona of the development firm, tenants will be able to buy the new apartments for between $1 and $10.

The project will also take advantage of new zoning laws that allow developers to build more square footage on a lot, provided they allocate 20 percent of the building’s total area to affordable housing.

In this case, the 12-story, 4,000 sq. ft. building will house approximately 12 low-income units (available to those making 80 percent or less of the area’s median income ̶ approximately $63,000), dispersed throughout the complex, and about 48 market rate units. The development’s market-rate units, which make up the majority of the building, will offset costs.
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