Posts tagged with "NYCHA":

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Feds to cut $35 million in funding for New York City public housing

New York City's perennially in-the-red public housing authority is set to lose millions in funding from the federal government.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) is facing a $35 million funding cut, the largest in five years and the first cuts New York has received under the Trump administration. That figure breaks down to $7.7 million in housing voucher funding (Section 8) and $27.7 million in operating funds.

NYCHA units are home to more than 400,000 New Yorkers, so the funding decrease is sure to have a negative impact on some of the city's most vulnerable residents. Even though the agency ended last year with a $21 million surplus, it now confronts a $14 million—or greater—deficit.

Despite Mayor Bill de Blasio's recent pledge of $1 billion to shore up faulty roofs, NYCHA faces an estimated $17.1 billion shortfall in capital repairs that consign residents to live with mold, lead paint, vermin, and, in low-lying complexes, Hurricane Sandy damage. The WSJ reported that up to $150 million in cuts to the agency are possible, and those cuts would reverse any recent improvements NYCHA has made.

"The direction we're moving in is one where public housing is drastically different or doesn't exist," NYCHA chair Shola Olatoye told the WSJ. "The progress we have made over the course of the last three years—it's not that it's at risk. It evaporates."

NYCHA is looking for money in all the places it can, but some fear that revenue-building initiatives like the city's plan to build infill housing and sell housing authority property could compromise the agency's mission.

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NYC connects low-income communities to the worldwide web with digital vans

In its latest effort to expand internet access within public housing communities, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) has hopped on the Pokémon Go craze.

Nestled in the heart of the LaGuardia Houses on Madison Street next to a mushroom-tiled sculpture—which is, itself, a Poké Stop recognized in the game—NYCHA invited Pokémon trainers to catch some Pokémon and tour its digital van, which was unveiled toward the end of the summer. The van, NYCHA’s third, offers access to free wi-fi and computers for low-income residents, as well as instructions for those less familiar with technology.

On September 21, with Pokémon trainers assembled, NYCHA chair and CEO Shola Olatoye described the vans as “an effort to better connect our residents to the city and the resources it has to offer,” and recognized Pokémon Go as a “great way to drive foot traffic to the digital van.”

In addition to free wi-fi, NYCHA’s digital vans are equipped with eight laptops, two tablets, scanners, printers, staplers, pencils, rulers, and calculators—anything you would need in a standard workplace environment.

“Basically I’m a mobile office,” Kim Maxwell, the digital van instructor, said with a grin.

According to Maxwell, most people utilizing the van’s resources are young people doing research for school, or creating resumes to apply for jobs.

“In 2016 you have to have a digital resume,” Maxwell said. “The days of asking, ‘Are you hiring?’ or ‘Can I give you my resume?’ are over. And not only do you have to present your resume online, you also have to take an assessment. You need a computer to do that.”

And the vans aren’t just serving young people on the job hunt. The second largest segment of users, according to Maxwell, is the elderly in the communities, who seek him out for more than just computer help. With regard to his engagements with the elderly during his visits, Maxwell said he gets a lot of repeat customers.

“They’ll come at first because they want to use their phone better, and they end up chit-chatting,” Maxwell said. “I’ve become a familiar face in their residence—it’s very rewarding that way.”

The digital vans are funded through a city grant, with partners at the Department of Information Technology & Telecommunications. Since the first van launched in 2014, they’ve won several awards for municipal innovation. Earlier this summer, the city won a competition by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development to participate in ConnectHome, an initiative by President Barack Obama to expand broadband access and digital literacy programs for low-income communities.

Nydia Vasquez, a senior resident and member of the executive board at the nearby Smith Houses, said she saw the van for the first time as she was walking home. When asked about her initial thoughts, Vasquez immediately perceived the vans as “a great advantage.”

“It’s excellent for the older people who need to talk to their families far away, get their emails, or make their medical appointments,” Vasquez said. “I hope they get more money so they can do it in every housing development.”

Each of the three digital vans cost about $175,000, with a $200,000 yearly operating budget, and visits between 18 and 25 developments over the course of a two-week rotation—still only a fraction of the 334 developments citywide.

When asked about the possibility of more vans, the NYCHA chair suggested that continued collaboration could make it a reality, citing close collaboration with the city government.

“We’d very much like to see this replicated,” Olatoye said.

As for Vasquez, she plans to spread the word among residents in her building and to inquire about getting the vans over at the Smith Houses at her next meeting with NYCHA.

“My complex is big—we need one on the left and one on the right,” she said. “And I don’t know about this Poké-stuff, but I’m going to find out today!”

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Red Hook housing development will feature its own sustainable, resilient microgrid

The New York City Housing Authority (NCYHA) is on the hunt for a developer to back a sustainable heat and power generation complex for Brooklyn's biggest housing complex to be. NCYHA says the developer would "finance, design, construct, and operate a campus-scale heat, hot water, and electricity generation and delivery network" that will serve the 28 buildings housing 6,000 residents in Red Hook. Officially known as the "The Red Hook Houses District Energy System," the project will comprise two energy plants located at each end of the complex that will form a micro-grid that supplies the housing network. Additionally, as part of a post-Sandy contingency plan, the micro-grid would let the NYCHA to produce its own energy and link up with the Red Hook Community Microgrid scheme. "NYCHA believes that the distributed energy component of this project has the potential to be a self-sustaining enterprise, and the RFP provides an opportunity to raise dedicated funds for that," said NYCHA spokeswoman Zodet Negron. “As part of NYCHA’s Sandy Recovery program, we are working to build back stronger and more resilient than ever before,” added NYCHA Chair and CEO Shola Olatoye. As of last week, the NYCHA has released its "Request for Proposals" which calls for a two part submission process due on July 22 and September 9. Developers will work alongside New York firm KPF, who have produced a selection of renders, for the scheme. Nilda Mesa, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability also mentioned how the scheme will combat greenhouse gas emissions. “NYCHA will be harnessing the energy produced in multiple ways, and eliminating individual building systems, which is a smart way to set up a system that will be better to maintain and control." In terms of funds for the project, The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has set aside $438 million for repairs on NYCHA buildings damaged by Sandy. "FEMA funds can pay for cogeneration/microgrid components that are consistent with the restoration and resiliency of electrical and heating systems that were damaged by Sandy," a spokeswoman said.  
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Back to the Future: New York City explores streetcar transit route linking outer boroughs

Remember the New York City streetcar? Unless you're a New Yorker of a certain age, you definitely don't. Advances in transportation technology (what die-hard conspiracy theorists refer to as Great American Streetcar Scandal) drove streetcars all over the U.S. straight to the last stop. Yet, it's now very possible that two neighboring boroughs, Brooklyn and Queens, will be reunited once again via a new streetcar line of their very own. The streetcar plans legitimate what transportation planners (and Michael Kimmelman) have known for years: commuting patterns in the city have changed, and the hub-and-spoke model no longer serves diffuse, inter- outer-borough commuting patterns. In his State of the City address last week, Mayor de Blasio proposed a 16-mile waterside streetcar route, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX), that would run through 14 neighborhoods, from Brooklyn's Sunset Park through Astoria, Queens. These areas have seen swift transitions from their industrial origins and rapid population growth as the waterfront settles comfortably into its post-industrial future. Renderings are credited to a nonprofit called the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector. According to The Daily News, members include "transit experts, community leaders and business giants like Doug Steiner of Steiner Studios, investor Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures and Helena Durst of the Durst Organization real estate firm." When the plan was announced in January, AN reached out the the nonprofit repeatedly for comment to confirm stakeholders and received no response. With backers like these, concerns about gentrification and potentially developer-driven policy have been raised. Some see the streetcar idea as a way to spur already-high land values along the waterfront, although the streetcar could also provide the more than 40,000 residents of waterfront NYCHA complexes with better access to public transportation. Others have raised concerns about locating the line in a flood zone. Still others have questioned why the city needs to spend billions on a new form of transportation, one that moves at a pokey 12 miles-per-hour, when bus service could be offered along a similar route. There is time to debate: Although energy around the plan is high, the groundbreaking is a long way off. The plan's timeline states that construction is expected to begin in 2019, and service could begin in 2024. The city pegs the cost at around $2.5 billion, although earlier estimates ran $800 million lower.
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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.
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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.]
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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.
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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.
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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)
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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.
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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]
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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.