Relocation plan for Two Bridges seniors submitted

BY SYDNEY PEREIRA | The Department of Housing and Urban Development has told The Villager that a relocation plan has been submitted for residents at a senior housing complex in the Two Bridges neighborhood.

A number of seniors at 80 Rutgers Slip are expected to require relocation as a result of a proposed 80-story tower by JDS Development, which is one of four new towers that are planned in the neighborhood.

Opponents of the four-building megaproject have often criticized the lack of information about how seniors at 80 Rutgers Slip would be relocated as a result of the construction. Early last year, The Lo-Down revealed that HUD had been in contact with the nonprofits that are required to submit a plan — Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Settlement Housing Fund. At the time, HUD had expressed preliminary support for the relocation scheme, though it was not formally submitted at the time.

Now, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council has formally submitted the relocation plan, which is pending final approval, according to HUD spokesperson Olga Alvarez.

Victor Papa, the president of Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, confirmed the organization has submitted a relocation plan, as well. Papa contended that discussions with the seniors and their families have been positive.

“Our method here is to try to keep every family in the building,” he said. “They are people who are vulnerable and who we have to be very, very careful with. Which is why we have met with them several times and their families, and each time we meet with them, we gave them choices.”

Two social workers who work in the building, plus a relocation specialist, attend these individual meetings, Papa said. The relocation specialist is from SAV Enterprises, a relocation firm that touts itself as having relocated 19,000 families in the U.S. and has been recognized with a “best practices” award by HUD.

The proposed JDS tower would rise 80 stories.

As it stands, tenants in up to 19 apartments at 80 Rutgers Slip could be impacted, pending City Planning approval of the projects and a finalized building design from JDS.

Under the plan, tenants from 10 of those apartments would be relocated into JDS Development’s new building at 247 Cherry St., which would be run by Two Bridges Neighborhood Council and Settlement Housing Fund.

Nine units in 80 Rutgers Slip currently remain vacant in order to accommodate some of the relocated seniors during construction, Papa added. He said they are working with JDS to alter the building design to decrease impacted apartments.

A source with direct knowledge of the development at 247 Cherry St. told The Villager back in August that design changes have already lowered the number of apartments that will have to go offline from 19 to 10.

Expected additional vacancies between now and the construction start date, residents choosing to leave the building, and possible design changes will allow the nonprofits to relocate all impacted residents within the building, according to Papa.

The project would cantilever over an existing building, as seen in this design rendering.

In February 2017, Councilmember Margaret Chin, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and former state Senator Daniel Squadron wrote a letter expressing concern over the lack of details regarding the relocation plan.

“We have extreme concerns regarding the current level of information shared with elected officials, the public and the residents themselves regarding communications with HUD and planning for this project,” the politicians wrote. “Our offices have attended and hosted several meetings with residents at 80 Rutgers Slip and little, if any, information appears to have been circulated with regard to the provision of plans for seniors who are located in apartments that will be taken off-line (either temporarily or permanently) and relocated.”

The pols requested a meeting to discuss HUD’s oversight of the plan. However, HUD spokesperson Alvarez told The Villager that the New York City Housing Development Corporation will have regulatory oversight. A month after their request, the politicians were told that HUD  had not yet approved a relocation plan.

The owners of the building, Two Bridges Neighborhood Council, will be required to comply with HUD’s “uniform relocation assistance” regulations, according to the HUD spokesperson.

Both HUD and H.D.C. have to approve the final plan before tenants would receive formal notices, according to H.D.C. spokesperson Stephanie Mavronicolas, who said that H.D.C. is expecting a proposed plan soon.

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