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NYCHA and Upper East Side tenants clash over luxury housing

The NYCHA says Holmes Towers residents support a plan to use their playground (pictured) for luxury apartments. But area residents disagree.

The NYCHA says Holmes Towers residents support a plan to use their playground (pictured) for luxury apartments. But area residents disagree.

(Gregg Vigliotti/For New York Daily News)

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Monday, September 19, 2016, 4:00 AM

The Housing Authority insists that tenants of Holmes Towers on the Upper East Side have embraced its ambitious plan to raise cash by building luxury apartments on what’s now their playground.

That’s news to them.

The tenant “stakeholder committee” organized by NYCHA to vet the plan — along with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and City Councilman Ben Kallos — made clear in a recent letter obtained by the Daily News that they never signed off on it.

In June, the New York City Housing Authority described tenant support for the plan to let a developer build 300 units — half market rate, half affordable — where the Holmes playground now sits.

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NYCHA stated, “Residents agreed that this site would foster a sense of community between the residents of the new building and the current residents.”

But in a Sept. 1 letter to NYCHA Chairwoman Shola Olatoye, the stakeholder committee wrote that the playground was selected “amid widespread resistance from the community to a development that would take away the park from the children.”

The NYCHA wants to build luxury housing on the playground to raise money.

The NYCHA wants to build luxury housing on the playground to raise money.

(Andrew Savulich/New York Daily News)

The letter demands that the process of picking a developer be put on hold until “real resident participation” can craft a new plan with an alternative site “the community has actually chosen.”

NYCHA views the plan to lease public land at Holmes Towers and other developments as crucial to raise funds to fix its constantly deteriorating apartments.

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Holmes and a Brooklyn development, Wyckoff Gardens, are the first test cases, with many more to come. NYCHA hopes to raise $ 300 million to $ 600 million over 10 years tied to 30 to 50 sites.

Brewer noted that NYCHA has promised to steer funds from the leases back to developments that host new housing, but at Holmes it hasn’t said how much or what it would pay for.

“The tenants don’t know what they’re getting for this,” Brewer said. “On many levels, it’s not real engagement here.”

City Councilman Ben Kallos says the Holmes Towers plan needs more community feedback.

City Councilman Ben Kallos says the Holmes Towers plan needs more community feedback.

(Jeenah Moon/for New York Daily News)

A similar campaign to build market-rate apartments by the Bloomberg administration collapsed just before the former mayor left office, with tenants complaining about being left out of the process.

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Mayor de Blasio promised his plan would include plenty of tenant input, and starting last fall, NYCHA held meetings at Holmes and Wyckoff seeking advice from the residents.

But when NYCHA formally requested proposals from developers on June 30, tenants at both developments complained they hadn’t been adequately consulted.

Mostly, they worry that the influx of market-rate units will further gentrify their neighborhoods and drive up the cost of living.

At Holmes, tenants are also stung by the displacement of the playground, which NYCHA insists will be replaced in a different, yet-to-be-named spot.

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NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer says the tenants don’t know what they’re getting in exchange for losing their playground.

(Robert Sabo/New York Daily News)

Kallos (D-Manhattan) says the Holmes plan needs more community input through the city’s traditional land use process — a process NYCHA insists is not required.

On Friday, he warned that NYCHA will likely face a lawsuit if it doesn’t adopt that approach, which involves studying what impact 300 more apartments will have on traffic, schools and infrastructure in the neighborhood.

NYCHA officials, meanwhile, see the plan as an innovative way to raise much-needed cash and insist there has been plenty of communication with tenants. “Engaging residents and the community has been at the core of the NextGen Neighborhoods program,” said NYCHA spokeswoman Jackie Primeau.

“Earlier this year, NYCHA worked closely with Holmes residents to create a community vision to be included in the request for proposals. Resident input informed the character and location of new housing. We are reviewing the issues raised in the letter and will continue to make partnership central in this process.”

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