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More Market-Rate Apartments Eyed for Lower East Side Public Housing Site

La Guardia Houses
This parking lot on Madison Street near Jefferson Street within the La Guardia Houses on the Lower East Side could be replaced by a private tower, according to new plans from NYCHA officials, April 23, 2019.
Photo: Rachel Holliday Smith/THE CITY

More private, market-rate apartments are coming to a tower planned within a Lower East Side public housing complex – the latest City Hall move to raise much-needed funds for the struggling New York City Housing Authority.

NYCHA officials presented some details of the revised proposal to tenants at the La Guardia Houses during a meeting Monday night, according to multiple people in attendance.

La Guardia, home to 2,700 New Yorkers, has been eyed for private development since the Bloomberg era. But last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration sought proposals for a tower with half subsidized, half market-rate apartments on a La Guardia parking lot.

Now, the city is looking to bring in a 35- to 45-story tower that could house up to three-quarters market-rate apartments, said sources who attended the meeting.

Felicia Cruickshank, president of La Guardia’s Tenant Association, worries the tower would add to an ongoing development boom that includes Extell’s One Manhattan Square and the three-skyscraper waterfront development in Two Bridges.

“It’s just going to gentrify the whole community and change what the Lower East Side has always been,” said Cruickshank, who attended Monday’s meeting.

Latest Proposal Amid Stalled Plans

La Guardia is one of several complexes identified in the city’s “NextGeneration Neighborhoods” program, which aims to raise up to $600 million for public housing repairs by attracting developers to build on NYCHA sites.

But in the four years since it was announced, no projects have broken ground and NextGeneration’s future remains unclear.

An attorney working with tenants at the Cooper Park Houses in Bushwick said residents haven’t heard from the city in months. Ditto for tenant organizers at Wyckoff Gardens in Boerum Hill. A representative for Two Trees, one of two developers chosen to build a new tower there, said only that conversations are ongoing.

THE CITY reported last week that City Hall quietly shelved a tower that had been in the works since 2005 for a NYCHA site in Hell’s Kitchen. A similar project at Holmes Towers in Yorkville is facing a court challenge from Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.

Last week, POLITICO New York revealed a City Hall plan to demolish two buildings at Chelsea’s Fulton Houses and ultimately move displaced tenants into a tower that would include NYCHA residents and people paying market-rate rents.

La Guardia Houses Rachel Holliday Smith/THE CITY

NYCHA would not comment on the La Guardia project or offer an update on any of the other NextGeneration sites.

Asked about the La Guardia plan, Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a City Hall spokesperson, emphasized that the city is “not walking away from our commitment to deliver critical repairs” for residents at the 10-building complex.

“We are simply doing our due diligence by engaging all the relevant stakeholders,” she said in a statement.

Funding Figures Unclear

During Monday’s meeting, officials told tenants money generated from the tower would cover some — but not all — of the $131 million in repairs currently needed at the La Guardia Houses, according to NYCHA’s most recent estimate. They did not say how much the project is expected to reap.

Cruickshank wants guarantees the money won’t get “siphoned off somewhere else.”

And she’s seeking more concrete details about any community or retail space planned for the new tower.

Her No. 1 priority? A supermarket — much-needed since the closure of the local Pathmark in 2012, she said.

Cruickshank said NYCHA officials wouldn’t commit to any specific use for the space. “We felt that it was an insult,” she said. “We get nothing in the bargain.”

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