Posts tagged with "public housing":

Federal agency eyes St. Louis’ Pruitt-Igoe site for new development

More than 40 years after its last high-rise fell, the site of St. LouisPruitt-Igoe public housing development remains basically empty. Design competitions, documentaries, and local developers have all pondered its future. Now the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency has said it’s considering the 34 acres once home to the infamous housing project as a location for 3,000 jobs. The website nextSTL reported this week that the NGA—a federal agency created in 1996 to provide maps and data for national defense—is looking at Pruitt-Igoe as it relocates its St. Louis offices from the city’s Kosciusko neighborhood. The site is one of six under consideration, but officials say the decision won't be made until 2016. The city recently sought $25 million in infrastructure improvements to the area, which some called a necessary investment regardless of the site’s future. Others disparaged it as a handout to developer Paul McKee, who has an option on the Pruitt-Igoe site and already owns nearly 2,000 other parcels of land in St. Louis. In January the city extended McKee's option, which he purchased in 2012 for just over $1 million, for another two years. The infamous post-war development in St. Louis’ DeSoto-Carr neighborhood (now Carr Square) was demolished less than 20 years after its construction in 1954. Photos of its demolition with the Gateway Arch in the distance have come to symbolize the failure of midcentury public housing projects in the U.S. Several of the development’s smaller buildings remain, including a one-story brick building that served as the development’s electric substation, three churches, a library, a school and a health center.

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Tenants have officially withdrawn a lawsuit over a Bloomberg-era plan to allow developers to build residential towers on New York City public housing land.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.]

Scaled-back Lathrop Homes Redevelopment Plan Aims for Compromise

Its unique plan and handsome brown brick buildings landed the site on the National Register of Historic Places, but Chicago's Julia Lathrop Homes face an uncertain future. As hundreds of units sit vacant, tensions and expectations are high for this historic riverside housing project. Preservationists called foul on a redevelopment masterplan released last year, which they said shortchanged the 1938 development. Though Lathrop sidestepped outright demolition, the Homes south of Diversey Avenue would make way for new buildings under a new plan proposed by a development group led by Related Midwest. The scaled-back plan, Crain’s reports, calls for 1,208 residential units on the 32-acre property—504 market-rate units, 400 public-housing residences, 212 affordable homes and 92 for senior citizen public housing residents. It could include new mixed-use buildings at the intersection of Diversey, Clybourn, and Damen avenues. The plan, which also calls for a small park and 780 parking slots, will be the topic of discussion at a July 30 community meeting. The possibility of taller buildings at the southern end of the property has angered some area residents, who worry about development out of scale with the neighborhood, which includes parts of Logan Square, Lincoln Park, and North Center.

Wednesday> Architect Srdjan Weiss Examines Viennese Housing at the Austrian Cultural Forum

The exhibit, The Vienna Model: Housing for the 21st Century City, currently on view at the Austrian Cultural Forum, is meant to provoke a discussion with housing advocates in this country. The Forum will host weekly tours of the exhibit by a variety of housing experts from various academic and professional fields. This Wednesday, the tour will be led by Srdjan Weiss, a Serbian-born architect and theorist based in New York City, with broad knowledge of the subject of housing in this country and Eastern Europe. The tour will be based on Weiss' parallel living experience and expertise in housing design from former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Yugoslavia. Viennese contemporary examples presented at the exhibit in the Austrian Cultural Forum in New York will also be viewed from the lens of large immigrant population—coming precisely from former socialist systems. The socialist culture of communal living with good architectural design seem to have all but disappeared in post-socialist systems neighboring Austria, but they have remained in Vienna as a model that can be learned from. The Austrian Cultural Forum is at 11 East 52nd Street.

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.

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.

CHA Wrecking Ball Returns

The last five families were moved out of the Harold Ickes Homes at the end of March, one of the latest clusters of high rise public housing the city is clearing as a part of the Chicago Housing Authority's "Plan for Transformation." Dozens of highrise towers have been demolished across the across the city, opening vast tracts of land for mixed-income and in some cases mixed-used development. While few would dispute that the large-scale warehousing of the poor in these projects helped to create major urban problems, the nearly total erasure of these areas seems as blunt as the urban renewal tactics through which they were originally built. Designed by SOM in the 1950s, the buildings reflected the architectural, planning, and sociological thinking of the day. Arguably the Plan for Transformation reflects the thinking of the last 10 to 15 years in public housing: New Urbanism. Chicago architects DeStefano + Partners proposed a contemporary reuse and reimagination of the Ickes Homes in a masterplan that called for making the buildings more sustainable and better integrated into the neighborhood. Their plan called for reducing the amount of parking space, adding green roofs, restoring the street grid, and adding infill buildings to bring the complex closer to the street. They also advocated reskinning the buildings to break up their massing and improve energy efficiency, as well as adding rain gardens and solar canopy's over the remaining parking areas, among other features. The plan was strong enough to win the firm a 2009 AIA award, but it didn't change the Housing Authority's decision to call off the wrecking ball.