City Reneging on All-Affordable Plan on W. 55th St. - Manhattan Express | Manhattan Express

City Reneging on All-Affordable Plan on W. 55th St.

The NYCHA parking lot slated for redevelopment by the city, with the Housing Authority’s Harborview Terrace in the center background. | Photo by Sydney Pereira

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | A long-promised 16-story, 100-percent affordable apartment building in Hell’s Kitchen could instead become a development of 30 to 50 stories with a majority of the units offered at market rate, according to four plans that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office proposed to local elected officials earlier this month.

A plan to build affordable housing on the site of the parking lot on New York City Housing Authority property adjacent to Harborview Terrace, on W. 55th St. between 10th and 11th Aves., has been in the works since the 2000s, under a promse made after the 2005 Hudson Yards rezoning was approved during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration.

The plans were delayed several years ago when Atlantic Development Group backed out of the project, but by early 2017, the plans were back on track, reported DNAInfo. A Request for Expression of Interest to choose a developer was to have been issued in the spring of 2017, with construction set to begin in 2019, according to that news site.

But now the mayor’s office appears to be back at the drawing board.

The Daily News reported earlier this month that four new plans were proposed to Borough President Gale Brewer, City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, and other local stakeholders. Three of the new plans would decrease the number of affordable units, while a fourth plan would keep 226 affordable units but add 527 market-rate units with a much taller building, according to the newspaper.

“The community was promised a 100-percent affordable development at Harborview, and that’s what should happen,” Brewer said in a statement.

The mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

The administration’s presentation on Aug. 6, according to the Daily News, honed in on NYCHA’s $32 billion in unfunded needs. The all-affordable plan would raise “minimal” funds for NYCHA, while a building with 70 to 75-percent market-rate units would bring “significant” funds and $40 million for Harborview Terrace, according to the newspaper.

“The administration hasn’t made a decision on which approach to adopt,” said NYCHA spokesperson Robin Levine, who declined additional comment because the plans are preliminary.

At the Aug. 6 meeting, everyone made clear to the mayor’s office that the new proposals wouldn’t be looked at favorably, according to Brewer’s office. Brewer understands NYCHA’s need for cash, but she remains steadfast in her support for a 100-percent affordable development. 

Following the Daily News’ scoop, the paper editorialized in favor of de Blasio’s proposals — focusing on the $40 million that the mix of market-rate and affordable units would bring to NYCHA’s Harborview Terrace, which is much in need.

“If anyone has better ideas of how to begin to fund $32 billion in needed repairs, bring them on,” the paper’s editorial board wrote, criticizing Brewer’s call for 100-percent affordability. “And it’s not as though a tall tower would be out of place in Midtown.”

A Request for Proposal was released in the middle of last year for Harborview and three other 100-percent affordable developments, but a developer was not chosen. NYCHA and the city’s Housing Preservation and Development planned to select a developer from a prequalified list, according to a release from the city.

The neighborhood’s state assemblymember was caught off guard by the change in plans.

“I was surprised to learn that the city was contemplating dramatic changes to an agreed-upon plan,” Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal said in a written statement. “The Harborview community, along with the elected officials who represent it, worked together with the city for many years on a plan to create a new affordable housing development — everyone agreed that it would be 100-percent affordable, because that’s what the community needed then and still needs.”

She added, “Now, under the new proposals, the Harborview community would only get as much affordable housing as originally proposed if there was also a 50-story building on the site. That represents a major departure.”

Councilmember Rosenthal kept focus on what the community wants, as well.

“I’m listening to the community,” she said. “There’s obviously been a long history here, and we clearly need to get something done that is what the community wants.”

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