Luxury High Rises Could Sprout Among New York’s Public Housing Towers

East
Thursday, February 7, 2013
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The Alfred E. Smith Houses in Manhattan. (Manuel Menal / Flickr)

The Alfred E. Smith Houses in Manhattan. (Manuel Menal / Flickr)

Luxury high rises could soon crop up right next to public housing. The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA), saddled with a $60 million deficit and a backlog of 420,000 repairs, is in quite a fix and has come up with one possible, and potentially controversial, solution to raise the money. According to a recent story in The Daily News, the over-extended agency is planning on leasing playgrounds, parks, and community centers within public housing complexes to private developers who would be allowed to build a total of 4,330 apartments.

The Alfred E. Smith Houses in Manhattan. (bzkoo / Flickr)

The Alfred E. Smith Houses in Manhattan. (bzkoo / Flickr)

The eight potential high rises would be built in prime real estate locations such as the East Village, Upper West Side, and Lower Manhattan. The prospect would certainly be an attractive opportunity for developers: NYCHA will provide a 99-year lease with the payments frozen for first 35 years. The only requirement is that 20 percent of the developments must be affordable housing for families that earn under $50,000.

Some residents are not happy about the new plan, but there is little they can do change or prevent these developments from being built. While this proposal is primarily motivated by the need for cash, it also has far greater implications in terms of class and economic diversity in a city that has become increasingly segregated by an influx of wealth.

In the last few years, urban planners and housing advocates have reimagined public housing. Rosanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions, proposed transforming Brownsville’s isolated housing block into a more integrated grid layout with through-traffic streets, retail, and urban farms.

The famed hotelier Ian Schrager has even set his sights on a former community garden that belonged to an adjacent privately-owned low-income housing tower at 10 Stanton Street in the Lower East Side. He purchased the site from tenants and the tower owner and plans to build a 25-story boutique hotel and residential tower.

Between the demand for luxury housing in Manhattan and NYCHA’s shortage of cash, public housing in the city is about to undergo significant changes.

The Alfred E. Smith Houses to the right of the Brooklyn Bridge. (Katy Silberger / Flickr)

The Alfred E. Smith Houses to the right of the Brooklyn Bridge. (Katy Silberger / Flickr)

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