On Tuesday of this week, we lifted our voices to the NYCHA board at its annual plan hearing as members of the Cooper Park Residents Council, which is the sole recognized Resident Association for our development.
We are extremely concerned about NYCHA’s NextGen plan to allow a private developer to build a new 50-percent market-rate building on our campus. These apartments will not be affordable to NYCHA residents and will cost much more than the amount our neighbors in the district can afford to spend on rent based on how much they make. Even the other apartments, the ones the city calls “affordable,” will likely cost more than the what NYCHA residents at Cooper Park pay now. NYCHA rents are set to be affordable to families in NYCHA based on how much that family actually makes: tenants pay 30 percent of their own incomes. The new affordable units will be priced according to an arcane formula that the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Washington D.C. has devised to tell us here in New York City what is affordable in our whole metropolitan area.
NYCHA is pushing the project forward without listening to us and in violation of our rights under federal law.
NYCHA decided what campuses will be targeted for infill development and selected which ones will be all “affordable” or market-rate without input from any NYCHA resident. NYCHA should not have announced that market-rate infill will be allowed on our parking lot at Cooper Park via a press release last year, before any public hearing was ever held. NYCHA should have presented its residents with different options to consider for closing budget gaps and creating new housing; once presented, NYCHA should have collaborated with residents to select one. Residents need to be included in all stages of the planning and decision-making, especially since we have more than an inkling as to what our needs and goals are.
NYCHA is not taking into account that new development will have significant negative impacts on current residents while not benefitting us at all. Construction dust will coat our kitchen countertops and babies’ cribs for years. We will wake to noise outside our windows. Seniors and other residents who rely on having their own cars to get around due to mobility impairments will lose parking spaces. New buildings will block out the sun which provides necessary vitamin D, a lack of which has been connected to the development of cancer and other life-threatening illnesses.
We are shocked that local nonprofit housing developers that have supported our community for decades are not central to the NextGen plan. Why are the only developers chosen so far private developers? And ones that contributed to the mayor’s election campaigns at that?
Finally, as it is designed now, revenue from the proposed project will not generate enough income to meet the capital repair needs we have at Cooper Park. NYCHA has not set a lease price. Instead, it has asked developers to name the price they want to pay for the right to lease our land for 99 years. There is no required amount up front and no required annual payment. Developers will surely offer as little as they think they can get away with. Developers will make money and we, the residents, will only lose.
Instead of moving forward, we propose that the NYCHA board use the occasion of Chairwomabn Olatoye Shola’s departure to revisit all proposals for private development on NYCHA land. We do not want to see new people doing the same old things!
Isabelle Davis, Geraldine Lawrence and Karen Leader are all Cooper Park Residents Council members. Lawrence is the Council’s treasurer. Leader is its secretary. The Cooper Park Residents Council is supported by the Equitable Neighborhoods Practice of the Community Development Project. Paula Z. Segal is an attorney in the Equitable Neighborhoods Practice.