Mayor public-housing raze-and-rebuild plan

BY GABE HERMAN | Chelsea’s Robert Fulton Houses may become less public under a proposal by the mayor that would let a private developer build on the site.

Under the plan, a private developer would build a new residential tower on a parking lot in the Fulton Houses. Seventy percent of the building’s units would be market rate, and 30 percent, affordable.

Residents of two existing low-rise buildings at the Fulton Houses, with 36 units each, would move into the new tower, before those buildings would be demolished and replaced by two other new buildings, state Senator Brad Hoylman told this paper.

Mayor de Blasio is proposing to demolish two of Robert Fulton Houses’ 11 buildings to allow a new tower to be constructed that would be 70 percent market rate. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Fulton Houses has 11 buildings located between Ninth and 10th Aves., stretching from 16th to 19th Sts. The complex has three 25-story towers, while the other eight buildings are six stories tall. It is unclear which two low-rise buildings would be razed under the plan.

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the scheme on the April 22 edition of “Inside City Hall” on NY1. The previous day, he also took to Twitter about the issue, writing, “This administration would never replace an old building until brand new apartments at NYCHA [New York City Housing Authority] rents were ready for every single resident. No one in Chelsea’s Fulton Houses should stay awake tonight worrying about losing their home.”

The private development on the site would be an attempt to raise money for needed repairs at Fulton Houses, which are estimated to cost $168 million over the next five years. NYCHA is currently under a federal monitor due to various issues of mismanagement.

Under the mayor’s plan, two of the lower buildings in the Fulton Houses would be demolished. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

Local politicians wrote a letter on April 22 to Kathryn Garcia, NYCHA interim chairperson and C.E.O., calling on the authority to present its plans to Fulton Houses residents as quickly as possible.

The letter was co-signed by Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Council Speaker Corey Johnson, state Senator Brad Hoylman and Assemblymember Richard Gottfried.

“Tenants need to hear plans under consideration for their community directly from NYCHA and be given a real opportunity to ask questions, receive direct, honest answers, and provide meaningful feedback,” the letter reads.

“To be clear,” the letter continues, “we will not allow any plan to advance that does not protect and preserve the Fulton Houses community, that involves displacement of residents from the Fulton Houses property, or that diminishes tenant rights or affordability.”

The eastern edge of the Fulton Houses complex includes lower buildings along Ninth Ave. (Photo by Gabe Herman)

The letter also expresses appreciation for efforts by NYCHA to try to find creative answers to its funding needs, a sentiment which Hoylman also reiterated to this paper. However, he said he was also wary in general of public-private partnerships.

“Look, the State of New York is as guilty as any party in ignoring the needs of our public housing residents,” Hoylman said.

He noted that the state owes NYCHA $450 million, which was allocated by the Legislature two years ago but still has not reached residents.

“Until government steps up and provides adequate funding to NYCHA,” Hoylman said, “the calls for privatization, I think, will continue. So we have a responsibility to respond with more revenue for NYCHA.”

The state senator said there were still many unanswered questions about the Fulton Houses plan, including what could happen if the housing market goes south during construction and the project can’t be finished. Also, he asked, would there be a guarantee that tenants would be protected and receive equivalent or larger apartments in the new complex?

“Residents need to be treated with respect and have all of the information necessary to judge this proposal,” Hoylman said. “Thus far, to my knowledge, that hasn’t happened. We’re still awaiting some more information.”

Hoylman, though, said the current situation at Fulton Houses could not be allowed to continue with such a big backlog of needed repairs.

“It’s unacceptable,” he said, “that New Yorkers who pay rent should expect substandard services and living conditions in our public housing.”

6 Responses to Mayor public-housing raze-and-rebuild plan

  1. Village resident

    Be warned, Hoylman, Johnson and others will play to your emotions and sell you out at the last minute. Look at the blood condos where St. Vincent’s once stood. And look at the pier 40 air rights giveaway. ALL TO PRIVATE DEVELOPERS. FOLLOW THE MONEY STRAIGHT TO THE CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS.

  2. Wow! The day has come. And it is our so called progressive Mayor, that won b/c of us. Tearing down public housing in Manhattan!

  3. Fight for NYCHA, Community Control of Land Use, Not One More Block and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel had a press conference for NYCHA Fulton Houses tenants yesterday on the corner of 9th Avenue and West 17th Street. We, as well as the 60 NYCHA tenants (most from the Fulton Houses), demand to keep public housing public. The tenants are against the demolition of the Fulton Houses as well as the RAD Conversion, and they are adamant that they are not moving. They also have a seething distrust of Mayor de Blasio who claims once they are relocated into the new building, they will be able to move back into their newly renovated apartments.

    Their instincts are correct in this lack of trust. The Government Accountability Office, a federal agency that investigates government programs, published a report in 2018 that showed that out of 26,000 RAD conversions of public housing apartments, 57% of tenants experienced a rent increase — which can lead to eviction if the rent increase is unaffordable — especially affecting seniors and the disabled on fixed incomes. Data from the National Housing Law Project shows that in states like Virginia, Maryland and Minnesota, where RAD has occurred, tenants are more exposed to landlord harassment, more burdensome house rules, a rescreening/reapplication that may deny formerly secure tenants, as well as increased "house rules" regulations that if not followed, can lead to eviction.

    A great example of what will happen under RAD is City Lab's report on RAD about Katrina Jones, a single mother of 3, who lived in public housing for a decade in Hopewell, Virginia. Katrina, whose daughter is disabled and in a wheelchair, was thrilled that her apartment was going to be repaired. Yet according to her complaint to HUD, the nonprofit RAD developer refused to make accommodations for her and her family, convincing her to take a tenant buy out. Being pressured, she took the buy out and went from paying $400 a month to $1,450 a month, working at Walmart, struggling to keep her new apartment. She said to City Lab, “These people do not care once you move out.”

    Currently, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is suing Mayor De Blasio and NYCHA to try and block an Upper East Side high rise, because they skirted zoning laws and ULURP. Under that logic, perhaps BP Brewer, Speaker Corey Johnson, Senator Brad Holyman and Assemblyman Dick Gottfried could show real leadership for public housing tenants, who live and vote in their districts, and sue the Mayor for RAD conversions that will lead to homelessness and displacement of vulnerable people of color, especially those living with low incomes.

    We believe this is the next big fight of ordinary citizens against luxury development, and we will win. New Yorkers need to understand that this phase is the Fulton Houses, but the next phase will be the Chelsea Elliott Houses, then the next phase will be the permanent affordable housing complexes of Penn South — and the next leading even to perhaps your own apartment. Luxury development knows no bounds and has no morality when it comes to displacement.

    There is a rich history of public housing as a social good, established by Mayor LaGuardia and FDR in 1934, after the Great Depression, and we must protect it. NYCHA tenants — as well as all communities — must have the power to self-determine. We all need to start making real noise that developers as well as the city cannot do what they please — our communities must not just have input, but also have the FINAL SAY in land use decisions. And saving the Fulton Houses is just the beginning. Please join us in this fight, go to Fight for NYCHA on Facebook, and ask how you can be more involved.

  4. as increased “house rules” regulations are badly needed at fulton…the un-contained garbage is everywhere There is nothing wrong with following the rules! If tenants did this 0 we would not be living in a garbage dump!

  5. marnie – you are wrong!!!

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