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No Land Grab: Residents, Advocates React to NYCHA Private Investment Plan

Proposal to lease portion of public housing to developers stokes old fears.

For residents of Whitman, Ingersoll and Farragut Houses, news last week of New York City Housing Authority's plan to lease some of its real estate holdings to private developers brought back old anxieties over the future of the nation's largest public housing system.

"Everything around us is falling apart," said Jose Rivas, a resident of Farragut Houses, who said he's still waiting for repairs to his leaky kitchen ceiling. "It feels like nobody really knows or cares what's going on."

Representatives of Nycha, as the landlord for an estimated 400,000 public housing residents across the city is known, said the plan to bring in private investment would be first unrolled in Manhattan.

"This is not a plan to privatize Nycha," chairman John Rhea told the New York Times last week.

But those assurances did little to assuage the fears of residents and public housing advocates over what they termed the lack of investment in public housing—especially in rapidly gentrifying areas in Brooklyn.

"We're worried Nycha is trying to pull another fast one. It's hard to trust them when they sat on $1 billion while my neighbors wait years for needed repairs," said Beverly Corbin, a resident of Wykoff Gardens and a board member for Families United For Racial and Economic Equality. "Without more tenant control and oversight, mismanagement issues will continue, and no long term preservation plan will be found."

For many, concerns about the future of public housing have been compounded by a huge backlog of unfinished repairs and fears that developers are eying places like Whitman and Ingersoll as the site of the city's newest big-time condo project.

On Myrtle Avenue, Rivas pointed to a large sign announcing the impending arrival of Red Apple Group's newest luxury residential development across the street from Ingersoll Houses.

"That's the future," he said.

Joe Gonzalez October 02, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I am not trusting NYCHA Head John Rhea at all. Mr. Rhea is the pathological liar who stood in front of 300 hundred folks on March 7, 2012 at the Fort Greene Community Center & stated to them that NYCHA had no funds to do repairs. It now develops that NYCHA is sitting on a fund of unused 1 billion dollars in cash that is designated for repairs. It also comes to light NYCHA is sitting on $42 million dollars in Homeland Security funds it got 8 YEARS AGO for security cameras that were NEVER installed. Also untrustworthy on this issue are local Green Hill elected public officials --all of them. Where are they on this issue? How come President Obama--who wants our votes-- has not spoken out about this mess?How is it that we have not heard them speak out? City Councilmember Tish James--who wants to be the NYC Public Advocate--is silent on this matter. It was at a March 7, 2012 meeting that Ms. James voiced her "suggestion" that the "unused" land (Farragut Houses parking lot) at the corner of Navy and Nassau Streets be used as "new" affordable housing (read: luxury housing for Williamsburgh interlopers). We the people have been sold out & we are in big trouble. There are 500 hundred empty apartments in Fort Greene NYCHA houses--go figure. Corcoran, Brownstone Realty and the other real estate sharks are waiting to eat up Fort Greene Projects. Citywide there are 500,000 folks living in NYCHA projects; they had better organized quickly--or there will not be a NYC Housing Authority.
Reginald H. Bowman October 04, 2012 at 04:04 PM
I am Reginald H. Bowman, and I am the President of the City Wide Council of Presidents, the Official resident body that represents the 500,000 plus residents that reside in public housing. I also live in Seth Low Houses, in Brownsville Brooklyn, the highest concentration of Public Housing in the United States. I believe that the residents of the Public Housing communities city wide are faced with the challenge of shaping the policy and practices of NYCHA, that directly affect the daily operations of NYCHA. This is not a defense of the problems that exist. We must first acknowledge, that the conditions that exist now, did not happen over night. Second, the plans that NYCHA, is presenting, are in place having been vetted with imput from residents, as they must be, by federal regulation. That is not to say that there are serious issues in repairs and resident support services that must be fixed. Finally, to quote the news media misrepresentation that NYCHA is sitting on funds, is irresponsible. As the Chair of CCOP, and the RAB sub Committee, that consists of residents, we would never allow NYCHA, to sit on funds, to sell off our homes and or displace us. I think that there needs to be a developmental dialogue, that will combine our collective resources, to shape the funding, management, and operational policy, and practices from here on out. You cannot influence the direction of the next level of public housing by months of speculative gesticulations in the media.
Reginald H. Bowman October 04, 2012 at 04:10 PM
(Conclusion to my previous post)I welcome all of the stakeholders to join us in an effort to restore NYCHA Housing as essential socio economic infrastructure, and stop wasting time to get media attention that only serves to entertain and not inform or resolve issues. It is my firm belief that Our time as residents, leaders, advocacy groups, politicians, and media, would be better spent, to Join the residntents and all stakeholders, at the planning and collaborative effort "table" then constantly rehashing matters that have been a part of the public record, and name calling. I can be reached at ReginaldHBowman@aol.com, 917-600-1589

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