Posts tagged with "NYCHA":

Archtober Building of the Day 8> The NYCHA Red Hook West Urban Farm

The NYCHA Red Hook West Urban Farm 6 Wolcott Street, Brooklyn thread collective A gaggle of green-thumbed Archtober enthusiasts joined thread collective’s Elliott Maltby and Gita Nandan to learn about the NYCHA Red Hook West Urban Farm. Situated in Brooklyn, the one acre plot has served as a model for other farms being developed on New York Housing Authority properties, including at Howard Houses in Brownsville and in Coney Island. While the lessons learned in the past three years have eased the way for these projects, each community has its own set of needs and will come up with unique solutions. In its pre-farm days, the site served as an open space that was largely unkempt, although a “tree zoo”—a small gated area with trees—had been put in place to make the lot more welcoming. While no planned walkways crossed the field, desire lines, eroded paths created by people moving along their daily lives, helped guide the design. Rather than planting rectangular beds parallel to the street, thread collective worked on a diagonal to recreate the paths that had developed naturally over time. Americorps team members, all of whom come from the community, talk with residents regularly—people are still learning about the farm every day.  Green City Force and thread collective worked to keep the space accessible to all to encourage community ownership and involvement. When asked if they have ever had a problem with people coming in and picking vegetables for their own use, John Cannizzo of Green City Force explained that while he doesn’t count every tomato, the nobody takes advantage. And if someone really can’t put food on the table, he hopes that they will come and take what they need. None of the produce is sold. Instead, the weekly farmers market is run as an exchange program in which residents volunteer their time or trade compost for freshly-picked vegetables at a pound-for-pound rate. Cooking demonstrations inspire experimentation in the kitchen, and Americorps team members check in with residents to ensure that they are growing the produce that the community wants. We turned the tour into a double feature, heading next to the nearby Red Hook Community Farm. This three acre plot, which is run by Added Value with the support of Green City Force and a coterie of interns and volunteers, processes compost and runs a CSA and farmers’ market. Nefratia Coleman, a CSA intern whose interest in food began at the NYCHA Red Hook West Farm, took us through the process of composting. Neatly arranged piles maximize airflow and capture heat to decompose the product without attracting vermin or smelling up the farm, which is teeming with interns and volunteers throughout the year. The farm and CSA program took a huge hit in 2012 when Sandy ravaged the land; water from both the East River and the Gowanus Canal rendered that year’s crop unusable.  The sanitation department cleaned it up, and the farm was replanted, this time a few feet above its original level. Corey, a staff member of Green City Force explained that the farm serves as a “vehicle to educate, empower, and train young people.” While the interns won’t necessary use their composting skills in future jobs, the leadership abilities they cultivate here will carry them forward in the future. Julia Cohen is the Archtober Coordinator at the Center for Architecture.

Tenants Drop Lawsuit Over New York City’s Controversial Plan for Private Towers on Public Housing Land

Tenants have officially withdrawn a lawsuit over a Bloomberg-era plan to allow developers to build residential towers on New York City public housing land. The Land-Lease Plan, as it is known, would have allowed the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) to essentially infill open land at their housing developments with new market-rate and low-income apartments.

Since these new towers would replace public parks, playgrounds, and gardens, the plan received strong pushback from the public, and from Democratic mayoral candidates who were running hard against Mayor Bloomberg. This plan, though, certainly had its supporters as it could have been quite lucrative for NYCHA—and for developers as well. The Tenants’ Association, attorneys from the Urban Justice Center, and NYCHA residents recently withdrew the suit given Mayor de Blasio’s intent to ditch the plan—at least in its current form. But, last fall, The New York TimesMichael Kimmelman explained why he thought the plan didn't need to be scrapped entirely. In his “to-do list” for the next mayor, Kimmelman wrote, “these ideas are still worth exploring, if focused on improving and diversifying neighborhoods and knitting them into the fabric of the city — and if done in collaboration with, and to benefit, residents.” We'll see if de Blasio can pull any of that off. [Via The Real Deal.]

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Appoints Housing Team

Over the weekend, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced four key appointments to his housing team. The mayor selected Shola Olatoye—a former vice president at the affordable housing non-profit Enterprise Community Partners—to chair the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA). He also announced that Cecil House will stay on as the authority’s General Manager. Vicki Been, the director of NYU’s Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, will become commissioner of the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. And Gary D. Rodney, an executive at the affordable housing developer Omni New York, will run the Housing Development Corporation. “We are going to take a new approach to this crisis that holds nothing back. From doing more to protect tenants in troubled buildings, to innovating new partnerships with the private sector, to forging a new relationship with our NYCHA communities,” said de Blasio in a press release. “Every decision we make will focus on maximizing the affordability of our neighborhoods.” This team—along with newly appointed City Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod—will be tasked with implementing de Blasio’s aggressive affordable housing agenda. The mayor has pledged to preserve or create 200,000 affordable housing units over the next decade.

New Website Tracks NYCHA’s Backlog of Repairs

NYCHA Watchlist. Public advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is bringing some transparency to New York City Public Housing Authority's shockingly long backlog of repairs with a new website called the NYCHA watch list. Tenants can now keep tabs on the number of outstanding repair requests in their building and see how long these requests have been sitting on the back burner. The website also catalogs the "most neglected housing developments" according to number of repairs with Grant on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan topping the list.

Five NYC Mayoral Candidates Camp Out in Public Housing for One Night

NYCHA Housing (Courtesy of eastcolfax/Flickr) Mayor candidates experienced first hand just what it is like to live in New York City public housing this Saturday. DNA Info reported that Reverend Al Sharpton, affiliated with the National Action Network, organized a sleepover for five of the contenders: Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, and Anthony Weiner. The mayoral hopefuls camped out overnight in sleeping bags in the Lincoln Houses in East Harlem. New York City Public Housing Authority (NYCHA) has been plagued by budget cuts and a 4000,000 back log of repairs, only exacerbated by the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. (Photo: eastcolfax/Flickr)

NYCHA to Lease Parcels of Land within Eight Public Housing Developments

After much speculation, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has officially announced its plan to lease parcels of land right in the middle of eight public housing developments in Manhattan to private developers. For several months, NYCHA officials have held meetings at the proposed sites, but the plans have been met with criticism from residents and local government representatives. Chairman John B. Rhea told members of the State Assembly last Friday that the over-extended agency must “ find innovative ways to chart our own path” and make up for its significant loss of state and federal funding. Rhea told the Committee that the agency has lost over 2.3 billion in the last decade and now is “met with 6 billion dollars in unmet capital needs.” NYCHA would lease a total of 14 parcels of lands to developers who would then be responsible for constructing and operating the buildings. The income, estimated to be between $30 and $50 million, from these new developments would then be invested back into public housing improvements. It is a lucrative deal for developers who will land a 99-year ground lease plus tax breaks. NYCHA will soon issue an Request for Proposal (RFP) this Spring for the development of these 14 parcels located throughout the city from Lower Eastside up to Harlem.

NYCHA Ticks Off 73,000 Work Orders from Its Backlog

NYCHA Maintenance & Repair Action Plan (Courtesy of NYCHA) The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is starting to make a dent in its epically long backlog of repairs. The agency just announced that that it has completed 73,000 work orders, which leaves them with 349,479 to go. Mayor Bloomberg and NYCHA launched an action plan back in January to reduce the backlog, and with $10 million from City Council, the agency has be able to hire 176 workers to specifically help with maintenance and repairs. [Image: Courtesy NYCHA]

NYCHA’s Green Thumb: New Affordable Housing Complex Opens With Rooftop Farm

It has been a rocky few months for the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), but the battered agency finally has some good news to report. State officials announced the opening of the Arbor House, a 124-unit affordable housing complex, located in the Morrisania section of the Bronx, that is not only LEED Platinum certified, but also features a hydroponic farm on the roof that supplies residents and the surrounding community with fresh produce. Built from local and recycled materials, the 8-story building was designed by New York-based ABS Architecture and includes a living green wall installation in the lobby, air-filtration systems, and indoor and outdoor exercise areas. This $37.7 million housing development came out of a collaboration between city agencies and Blue Sea Development, and according to The New York Observer, is part of a larger initiative by Mayor Bloomberg, which “pairs dilapidated and vacant NYCHA land with private developers to create affordable housing.” The apartments are reserved for low-income households that earn less than 60 percent of the city's median income. Residents will start moving in within the next month.

NYCHA Chairman Fesses Up, Discusses Hurricane Sandy Response Shortcomings

After much silence, New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) Chairman John Rhea revealed at a panel on Tuesday that the cash-strapped agency failed to adequately prepare for Hurricane Sandy. The super storm left 80,000 tenants without heat or power for several weeks, exposing the weak infrastructure and fragility of over 250 buildings, and also the agency’s disorganization. Crain's reported that Rhea outlined the three main lessons from the disaster, which boiled down to recognizing the magnitude of future storms and natural disasters, taking proper measures to protect vulnerable buildings, and accepting the reality that many residents will refuse to evacuate. Rhea admitted that NYCHA is under-staffed as a result of budget cuts over the years, which likely contributed to the agency’s poor response to the storm. On the upside, Mayor Bloomberg announced last week that the city will allocate $120 million to NYCHA to help in the recovery efforts. But Rhea said that will barely cover the  $785 million in damage from Sandy. The agency is exploring other less conventional, and somewhat prickly, funding options such as leasing playgrounds and community centers in the middle of housing developments to private developers to build luxury high rises. Yesterday Rhea went in front of the City Council for the first time. According to NY1, he had to explain why NYCHA’s emergency response went awry.  NYCHA is expected to present an action plan by next month.

A Boost in Federal Funds Expedite Hurricane Sandy Recovery Efforts

Now that Congress has passed the $51 billion emergency aid package, Mayor Bloomberg is forging ahead with the recovery plans. The City will set aside $1.77 billion in federal funds dedicated to rebuilding homes, businesses, public housing and infrastructure that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Bloomberg did, however, warn that it could likely take a few months for the programs “to be approved and implemented.” Since the storm, the city, in conjunction with FEMA, has helped homeowners in New York through its Rapid Repairs Program. In a press conference last week, Bloomberg announced that the city will create a $350 grant program to help owners of single-family homes rebuild residences that bore the brunt of the storm, and another $250 million dedicated to “enhance the resiliency” of multi-family housing units. New York City’s public housing sustained considerable damage during the storm, which resulted in up to $785 million in damage to 257 buildings in 32 housing developments. NYCHA will receive $120 million in aid to repair and prepare buildings for future storms by taking measures such as purchasing permanent emergency generators. The city will also provide $100 million in grants to over 1,000 businesses affected by the storm. Businesses will be able to obtain loans of up to $150,000 and grants as large as $60,000.  An additional $140 million will be spent on efforts to help build infrastructure for utilities and to jumpstart economic activity in the five business zones that are located in vulnerable areas.

Luxury High Rises Could Sprout Among New York’s Public Housing Towers

Luxury high rises could soon crop up right next to public housing. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), saddled with a $60 million deficit and a backlog of 420,000 repairs, is in quite a fix and has come up with one possible, and potentially controversial, solution to raise the money. According to a recent story in The Daily News, the over-extended agency is planning on leasing playgrounds, parks, and community centers within public housing complexes to private developers who would be allowed to build a total of 4,330 apartments. The eight potential high rises would be built in prime real estate locations such as the East Village, Upper West Side, and Lower Manhattan. The prospect would certainly be an attractive opportunity for developers: NYCHA will provide a 99-year lease with the payments frozen for first 35 years. The only requirement is that 20 percent of the developments must be affordable housing for families that earn under $50,000. Some residents are not happy about the new plan, but there is little they can do change or prevent these developments from being built. While this proposal is primarily motivated by the need for cash, it also has far greater implications in terms of class and economic diversity in a city that has become increasingly segregated by an influx of wealth. In the last few years, urban planners and housing advocates have reimagined public housing. Rosanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions, proposed transforming Brownsville’s isolated housing block into a more integrated grid layout with through-traffic streets, retail, and urban farms. The famed hotelier Ian Schrager has even set his sights on a former community garden that belonged to an adjacent privately-owned low-income housing tower at 10 Stanton Street in the Lower East Side. He purchased the site from tenants and the tower owner and plans to build a 25-story boutique hotel and residential tower. Between the demand for luxury housing in Manhattan and NYCHA’s shortage of cash, public housing in the city is about to undergo significant changes.

A Win for NYC Tenants: A New Bill Holds Landlords Accountable

It will now be increasingly difficult and costly for New York landlords to flip properties by making quick fixes to buildings that require major structural repairs and improvements. The New York City Council passed a bill yesterday that will allow the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) to clamp down on landlords who don’t “repair underlying conditions that lead to repeat violations” stated the City Council in a press release. These violations could include leaks or damaged roofs that lead to mold, which could have a deleterious effect on a tenants “quality of life, health, and safety.” The new legislation will give the owner a four-month period to take the proper measures to fix the problem and provide proof of their compliance. Landlords could face penalties of $1,000 per unit or a minimum of $5,000 if they fail to comply with the order by deadline. While private landlords will be reprimanded for failing to comply with orders by HPD, the question is whether the New York City Housing Authority will also be held accountable and required to pay the same penalties if repairs aren't made. NYCHA claims that there were no “serious structural issues” caused by Hurricane Sandy, but tenants disagree and say the storm revealed a plethora of problems such as cracks, leaks, and loss of hot water. This summer, the Daily News reported that NYCHA board chairman John B. Rhea revealed a “backlog of 338,000 maintenance orders.” City council conducted a report with help of the Boston Consulting Group, which disclosed a study that kids in public housing are "three times more likely to develop asthma as those in private homes." NYCHA might not admit that the repairs constitute major structural issues, but the evidence of these health issues certainly contradicts this claim. Tenants with repeat mold problems have filed a suit against NYCHA for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act citing asthma as a disability. We’ll see if this new bill will compel NYCHA to expedite these maintenance orders.