ENTREPRENEURIAL DISPIRIT

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It’s partly the rent hikes. It’s also the forced moves. But what’s really got a lot of tenants–and city councilmembers–pissed off about the Neighborhood Entrepreneuers Program is simply being left in the dark.

At a Friday City Council hearing, the overflow crowd lustily cheered and booed this housing program, which turns city-owned buildings over to local private developers for renovation with low-interest loans. Home team enthusiasm appeared to be with the critics in the balcony, who consistently outvoiced the supporters–especially when Manhattan Councilmembers Stanley Michels and Bill Perkins lambasted the housing department’s Deputy Commissioner John Warren for failing to inform tenants about the alternative to NEP, the tenant ownership program called Tenant Interim Lease (TIL).

Critics of the 5-year-old program charge that the process through which buildings are chosen for NEP is secretive, and allege that the housing department deliberately makes it difficult for tenants to opt out of the program and into TIL. They also point to the higher subsidy for NEP buildings–around $70,000 per apartment, compared to the $50,000-per-apartment rate that TIL rehab projects average. And tenants have also complained that, during rehab work, they were temporarily moved into dangerous buildings that were either drug-infested or more dilapidated than the buildings they’d left.

Warren pointed out that 78 buildings have so far opted out of NEP and into TIL, and insisted that his agency gave the tenants free choice between the programs. But NEP tenant Amanda Ravel of 536 136 Street said that none of her neighbors in the building knew a thing about either program. She brought her sister-in-law and niece, who also live in NEP buildings, to the hearing try to find out what was happening. “They don’t tell us anything,” she explained. “They don’t do anything except raise the rent.”