It is a tale of two cities in one public housing project.
Mayor DeBlasio’s own campaign slogan came back to haunt him on Tuesday night, when residents of Boerum Hill’s Wyckoff Gardens grilled the city’s former public advocate on his plan to fund the cash-strapped housing authority’s backlog of repairs by building market-rate housing on the property during a packed public forum. The development will build a very visible wall between the neighborhood’s haves and have-nots, said one tenant.
“You are still creating two cities. NYCHA will in effect be two cities,” life-long resident Nicole Kent said. “You’ll have a luxurious building for the new people coming in and us still dealing with the amenities that we have.”
DeBlasio spent two hours speaking with several hundred tenants in order to sell them on the city’s plan to pull the city’s largest landlord back from the brink of bankruptcy, part of which is to build 250 market-rate and 250 below-market-rate units on Wyckoff Gardens land.
Hizzoner acknowledged that the new development would be a stark contrast from the crumbling towers that currently occupy the blocks bounded by Baltic, Wyckoff, and Nevins streets and Third Avenue, but insisted it was the only way to fund much-needed repairs to the buildings.
“Will the building built in 1965, that has been put through hell, be as nice as the new building built in 2017? No. I’m being real,” he said. “Will we keep making the building built in 1965 better with the new money we have? Yes.”
But the Wyckoff Gardeners remained skeptical, saying they wanted to see repairs before they’ll believe that any of the dollars from the development — which is still years away — will actually trickle down.
Tenants cited pressing problems with security, elevators, and heating — one woman claimed her apartment had not had heat since 2011 — which they said cannot wait.
“I understand capital needs, but there has not been any real investment in the people here,” said Kent.
DeBlasio promised the tenant’s immediate concerns would be addressed, but maintained the new buildings are the only way to funds improvements in the long-run.
“The only way to get the amount of money you deserve is through this development,” he said. “I don’t think there’s another alternative out there.”
He also pledged that the project would not result in any demolition, eviction, or rent increases for current residents — a concern held by many after the authority notified them of the plans via robocall in September.
The housing authority is still holding meetings with residents to determine exactly where the new buildings will go — it is currently deciding between parking garages and a fenced-off vacant lot on the corners of the property, the body’s head honcho Shola Olatoye told this paper in December.
The authority will start accepting proposals from developers around July and will select one by the end of the year, she said. But it will be at least two years before any construction gets underway, because the entire thing will have to undergo a lengthy public-review process.