Community Board 7’s housing committee on Monday night called for a moratorium on private development on the grounds of Frederick Douglass Houses unless the New York City Housing Authority increased community engagement.
The resolution came in response to NYCHA's controversial plan to build three market-rate apartment towers within the public housing complex between Amsterdam and Manhattan avenues and between 100th and 104th streets.
The unanimous vote is only advisory. It comes as the agency prepares to release a request for proposals to developers by the end of the month.
CB7’s full board will vote on the resolution at its next meeting in May, but the resolution will be circulated to NYCHA, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and other elected officials ahead of time, according to housing committee co-chair Nick Prigo.
Prigo said the fact that the full board may not be able to pass a resolution before the request is issued reflects the "completely ridiculous" deadlines of NYCHA's project.
At the meeting, NYCHA officials Frederick Harris, Katherine Gray, and Bryan Honin emphasized that the proposal aimed to raise capital to make up for the agency’s budget deficit and to ensure that it has money to maintain existing public housing.
In another resolution, the committee acknowledged the agency's need for funds and requested that the public be involved in considering solutions.
The NYCHA representatives also further explained the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s review process for the proposal, which requires documentation of resident engagement.
Although the meeting was not as rowdy or emotional as NYCHA’s previous meetings, attendees took issue with both logistical considerations—such as the fact that the proposal removes parking spaces and green space—and NYCHA’s efforts to engage the community.
Housing committee member Madelyn Innocent, who is a Frederick Douglass resident, said that the speed of the process reflects NYCHA’s disregard for real public engagement.
“You really don’t listen to us,” Innocent said. “You don’t want the residents’ input.”
Democratic District Leader Bob Botfeld said that in the four presentations on the proposal he has been to, he has not seen any indication that NYCHA has taken into account residents’ concerns. Cynthia Doty, also a Democratic district leader, said the agency would need to find a way to demonstrate genuine responsiveness to the qualms residents have expressed.
“So far, most of these meetings have been very controversial,” Doty said, adding that she doubted NYCHA would report to HUD that resident input was “as emotional as it has been.”
NYCHA hosted its first round-table discussion on the infill proposal today at a different location and plans to hold one for Frederick Douglass Houses next week.
CB7 chair Mark Diller, CC ’80, said that although the board plays a purely advisory role, he hoped that no one would take the committee’s vote lightly. Diller said the process had demonstrated a “gap in effective engagement” on the part of the agency.
Harris, NYCHA’s executive vice president for development, told Spectator that he would treat CB7’s decisions “like any community input.”
The community board “doesn’t govern NYCHA,” Harris said.
Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story stated that the Frederick Douglass Houses are between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. They are actually between Amsterdam and Manhattan avenues. Spectator regrets the error.