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Manhattan BP Brewer Threatens Mayor With Lawsuit Over public-Private Housing Plan

An artist’s rendering of the Holmes Towers project.
An artist’s rendering of the Holmes Towers project.
Photo: NYCHA

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is threatening legal action over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to override public review at a contentious private development at a public housing complex on the Upper East Side, according to a letter sent to City Hall yesterday.

The Holmes Towers project in Yorkville is poised to be the de Blasio’s administration’s first major private development deal on New York City Housing Authority land that aims to raise money for the struggling agency.

But the deal has been delayed for nearly three years amid concerns from residents and local officials about construction, transparency and gentrification.

In 2016, the city announced plans bring on a private developer to build on the NYCHA site. A year later, the de Blasio administration chose Fetner Properties to develop a private tower on land directly next to the towers on East 92nd Street and First Avenue. As part of the deal, Fetner has agreed to give $25 million to the housing authority to make repairs at Holmes — which needs about $36 million in fixes and maintenance, according to NYCHA’s most recent estimate.

As of late February, the Fetner deal has not yet closed. To greenlight the plan, NYCHA has said the mayor will use his power to override city procedures on public review of land deals.

But Brewer has a lot of questions. And now she’s telling the mayor: If you try to develop the site without public review, I’ll take you to court.

“If the administration does not proceed accordingly, I am prepared to challenge what I believe to be improper action by pursuing appropriate legal remedies,” Brewer said in her Feb. 20 letter to de Blasio, which was obtained by THE CITY.

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (standing) speaks at a Jan. 30 Community Board 8 meeting as CEO Hal Fetner (seated, second from left) looks on.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer (standing) speaks at a Jan. 30 Community Board 8 meeting as CEO Hal Fetner (seated, second from left) looks on.

The mayor’s office said it had received the letter and was reviewing it.

“We are using every tool in our arsenal to reverse decades of federal divestment in NYCHA,” said mayoral spokeswoman Olivia Lapeyrolerie. “This project will raise $25 million in critical repairs for Holmes residents.”

The potential Holmes Towers development is just one of a handful of private-public projects officially known as “Build to Preserve” as part of the “NYCHA 2.0” initiative, which is the latest iteration of policy once known as NextGeneration NYCHA.

Similar works are being considered at Wyckoff Gardens and Cooper Park in Brooklyn, and at LaGuardia Houses on the Lower East Side and Harborview Terrace in Hell’s Kitchen.


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