The Frederick Douglass houses, via Wikimedia Commons.

The city has been working on a plan to lease land to private developers so they can build market-rate apartments on public space within housing projects. The plan, revealed last week by the Daily News, includes a possible luxury development in the Frederick Douglass Houses between Amsterdam and Manhattan Avenues from 100th to 104th Street. The developments would be built on top of playgrounds, community centers and parking lots, tenant leaders and others told the News. At the Douglass Houses, the plan is to build on top of a current parking lot.

The city wants to build the developments to help raise money for the New York City Housing Authority, which is underfunded and has often been slow to make repairs or improve public housing.

In total, 4,330 apartments would be built in 8 developments. The developers would get 99-year leases and payments to NYCHA would be frozen for the first 35 years. Requests for proposals could go out as soon as next month.

But the plan strikes some as a little insulting: “Now they have this influx of yuppies who can afford these big rents,” said Douglass Houses tenant Madelyn Innocent, 56. “The people who already live in public housing are going to be resentful that you built this housing and left them in shambles.”

In some developments, the News says, the luxury apartments would face away from the public housing units — presumably, the rich people would not want to have to look at the decaying buildings around them.

It does sound a little insane. And yet, the same dynamic is arguably already on display all over the Upper West Side, as luxury developments are built just steps away from housing projects and within formerly middle class neighborhoods.

There is no sure thing that this will happen. The next mayor would likely have to approve the idea, and fierce opposition is already popping up in various neighborhoods, including the Lower East Side.

Will Upper West Siders embrace or reject the idea? Let us know how you feel in the poll below, and in the comments.

Should luxury housing be built inside public housing projects?

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Correction: Because of a typo, we initially misstated the length of the lease as 990 years.

NEWS, REAL ESTATE | 15 comments | permalink
    1. Ken says:

      The Frederick Douglass Houses include parking lots for the residents?

    2. Scooter Stan says:

      Life imitates art … or is it the other way around? The “art” is the recent excellent flick entitled “Broken City,” in which Russell Crowe plays a long-term NYC mayor seeking to sell public housing to his developer buddies (Hmmm…maybe it IS the other way around).

      He tries to enlist the aid of Mark Wahlberg, as a private investigator/ex-NYPD, but, after several plot-twists and double-double-crosses, Wahlberg eventually stops him, even though he has to also take a fall.

      Hey, Mr. Wahlberg, are you available? The people of NYC might need you!

    3. Andrew says:

      This would seem to be a no-brainer and a win-win if done correctly. NCYCHA is dead BROKE and has no source of revenue to fix-up public housing. The city has changed in a lot of these neighborhoods and there is no reason the very valuable real estate should sit there as parking lots. I live in the city and can’t afford parking. Having a car is not an entitlement.

      Sell the land and take they money to upgrade and fix the derelict public housing projects.

      Everyone wins. NYCHA gets revenue, the residents of the homes get dramatically improved living conditions and the neighborhoods improve and get more stores/services.

      Why would this even be a question?

    4. Harriet says:

      I’m in favor of it. I’d rather not use playgrounds, but parking lots certainly. The mix of lower income housing and upper income housing is part of what gives NYC it’s unique ability to get along with each other. Helps everyone to see how the “other half lives” and that works both ways.

    5. sm says:

      Economically it seems to make sense. In reality, however, it could only work if the building is erected on the right spot. There are few spots in the FDB House footprint that I can see it working. The FDB residents would be highly resentful and I am not sure someone would want to pay $3200 for a one-bedroom smack in the middle of public housing. It works on columbus because they built the whole complex (including the shops – whole foods, etc) on parking lot/tennis court land, that was not smack in the middle of public housing.

    6. Bruce Bernstein says:

      it is land for the housing project. if the parking lot is not used, then build a playground, or, god forbid, more public housing. certainly there are ways to finance this without giving the land away on perpetual lease (990 years!)

      • will says:

        How can these people complain about losing their parks. Central Park is 50 yards away!!! Is that not good enough for them?
        These people are beyond ignorant and greedy. What makes it worse is all of this is being given to them!

    7. Upper West Hazel says:

      I would support middle-income housing inside public housing, with the proviso that the city finally allow the retail outlets that are so important to a sense of community. I am thinking of Douglass, just to the north. Assuming tenants still support that.

    8. jan says:

      ..there goes the neighborhood!…will luxury housing be built in Lincoln Towers?

    9. Ann says:

      I think this sounds awful. I walk through the projects every day on my way to work and back to get to the B train. Right now the residents have open air, views, playgrounds, trees, things that give them a decent quality of life. Plunking a bunch of tall buildings down in the middle of it would block views, put everything into shade, get rid of the open space and force the residents to confront the inequalities of income 24/7. I think it sounds like a big “screw you” from the city to poor people. Did someone raise Robert Moses from the dead?

    10. Liz says:

      This is really disgraceful. It is just one more indication that Mayor Bloombucks could not care less about the average New Yorker.

      It’s all about the rich and the corporate fat cat cronies of the mayor. New York City would have money for housing if the city didn’t waste money on things we don’t need and don’t want such as the Disneyfication of Times Square, bike lanes, a payroll records system that doesn’t work, etc., etc., etc.

      It was time for Bloomberg to go eight years ago. I cannot wait till he is gone. He has no compassion for the poor and is totally out of touch with how the average person lives.

      P.S. Doesn’t the idea of the rich folks entrance facing away from the “poor folk” housing smack of the days when they put decals on the windows in the Bronx.

    11. May says:

      There are approximately 500+ community gardens throughout NYC that tax payers support. What about adding those spaces into the mix?

      Ask the residents themselves to vote if they prefer parking space or building upgrade.

    12. Maysadesimone says:

      This is a lie the NYCCHA is broke. ther is a billion dollor sur plus that has not been tapped into. Luxury condos?…how about affordable and/or low income housing. There is less afforadable housing in this city. Reports have shown that there is a growing population of homeless families in this city. There are more people who are moving into the projects due to the crisis of less affordable housing. If the city was going to build or have a developer build for low income families, then I am for it.

    13. Tim says:

      As someone stated they have a huge surplus which is true. Michael Bloomberg reason for building is the money is needed. He threw a lot of money to charities while in office to get votes and stay in office.
      I see and understand Michael Bloomberg spends his fortune only when its benefits him. I’m Grateful he donated 500,000 to the Dance Theater of Harlem which kept they’re
      doors open. That was Solely for votes which he got The following term. He also spent more off his fortune which only benefited him And that was for his third term. Other then a 500.000 dollar donation 2 the Dance Theater of Harlem, Michael Bloomberg has done nothing for our community.